The Jakarta Post
Spotting two or more South Koreans at the University of Indonesia's (UI) main library is easy, because the past few years have seen a rise in the number of South Koreans studying at the country's top state university.
Coffee shops like Starbucks and Korean restaurants on the large campus in Depok, West Java, are popular hang out places for the Koreans.
'UI's international reputation has inspired overseas students to study here,' said Nesti 'Ines' Rahayu, 27, who works at UI's global visitor, student and staff services office.
According to data from her office, the number of South Korean students has grown from 40 in 2013 to 62 in 2014 and 76 in 2015.
Although the number looks small against the tens of thousands of UI students, it makes South Koreans the top foreign community at UI.
The growing number of South Koreans is in line with an increasing number of partnership programs between UI and South Korean universities. 'Currently, 48 South Korean universities have partnerships with UI,' said Ines.
The trend has replaced the preceding years' influx of Japanese students. 'There is now a South Korean student association on campus. They elect their own leader every year,' she added.
The partnerships are not the only reason for the influx of South Korean students. Ines said most South Koreans who applied for the program had been living in Indonesia for some time. 'They are the sons or daughters of South Korean expatriates living in Indonesia.' However, there are also some who came directly after graduating from high school in South Korea.
Undergraduate Jong-Hwan, 22, said he had come to Indonesia three years ago and spent the initial years learning Indonesian at UI before starting his studies in communication. 'I plan to work in Indonesia after graduating,' he said.
Another degree student is Jung Injun, whose father owns a factory in Bekasi. 'I came with my father and have been here for three years. I study here to help my father later in the factory,' he said in slow but clear Indonesian.
Song Yang-kyu, 25, an Indonesian-language student, arrived in January 2015. He came from Seoul to follow his brother-in-law in Indonesia. 'Aside from that reason, some of my family also recommended I come here. They said Indonesia is better,' he said, stammering, as he just recently began to learn the language.
Song Yang-kyu plans to work in Indonesia after completing his language course. Specifically, he will work in a Korean company, assuming that Indonesian companies might not favor Korean nationals.
Jeong Sunghun and Son Haejin, both 23, are non-degree/exchange students from Seoul National University of Science and Technology (SEOULTECH). They came only for one semester to study chemical engineering at UI.
'We are actually food engineering students, but since there was no such major at UI, we chose chemical engineering. I am interested in studying about halal food, seeing that more and more companies in Korea are starting to get into the halal food market,' said Haejin.
Apart from studying halal food, Sunghun and Haejin are also learning Indonesian. 'Learning Indonesian might improve my chance to be accepted by companies in Korea,' she said, adding that Indonesia was an option, too. 'I am thinking about working here; the people are very nice and friendly.'
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