Thousands of Dormant Ambassadors: Challenges and Opportunities for Relationship-Building between Global Korea Scholarship (GKS) Recipients and South Koreans
Through the Global Korea Scholarship (GKS) program, the government of the Republic of Korea annually invites over a thousand international students to learn the Korean language and obtain a higher education degree from Korean universities. One of the program's goals is positioned within the public diplomacy framework. Korea seeks to cultivate Korea-friendly networks and transform GKS students and alumni into ambassadors to contribute to Korea's promotion abroad. However, there is no clarity on whether this mechanism works as expected. This study examines GKS students' relationship-building experiences with South Koreans during and after the exchange program. Analysis of twenty in-depth interviews with the program's alumni reveals both what facilitates and what obstructs personal and professional relationship-building between scholarship recipients and South Koreans at different stages (language year and degree years) of the program and after graduation. The paper concludes with practical recommendations for universities, GKS administrators, and the South Korean government regarding their policies for scholarship holders.