The Self-Study Culture in Korea

I’ll make it simple: studying in South Korea is sexy.

I’m not really sure if the topic of what you study is relevant, but if you ever drop the line: “I’m going downtown to do some studying,” your Korean friends will think the world of you. You might be thinking of the stereotypes that fit some Asian societies:  that of children studying from dawn till well beyond dusk, but I don’t mean that. Kids are expected to study. I’m talking about unnecessary study. Things you study just to calm an interest that keeps nagging at you.

This summer, a good friend of mine turned me on to the website Coursera ( It’s an online-learning platform that offers real-time courses from major universities (think Duke, Princeton, et al). Most classes offer certificates for completion, but none of it is accredited. It’s mainly for folks who have spare time and want to learn new things for leisure.

This year was a great year to learn about Coursera. I just finished my first course called Operations Management and have started a new one this week called Think Again: How to Reason and Argue. Classes are all free. And living in Korea, this year was a great year to learn about the site partly because of South Korea’s Sexy Study Culture.

Now, do I really mean sexy?

You bet I do.

Koreans seem to love, love, love the idea of a person making efforts to better themselves. It’s an ueber-competitive job market out here. Any and all qualifications won’t go unnoticed on your CV by prospective employers. I’ve gone into Daegu’s numerous cafes on any given Sunday afternoon to find myself amongst a throng of like-minded individuals with open textbooks, coffee-ring-stained napkins, and flickering laptops (all right, not flickering. This isn’t 1995 anymore), filling up…and I mean packing…these multi-story cafes left and right.

Most of these cafes in Daegu have free wifi, which is great. In-between my Korean studies, I might catch a quick episode of my drama: 신사의 품격.

Boasting about studying in the West isn’t the same as here in Korea. It might be a bit nerdy or geeky in a very not-cool way to spend your weekend behind a stack of books, but if you find yourself out here, living in Korea, and find that extended learning is your thing, give in to the study culture here.

Best cafes in downtown Daegu would have to be the recently remodeled Holly’s Cafe. They have a wifi connection for each of their three floors. Also, In the Garden Cafe (near the Holy Grill) is a great study cafe with wonderful waffles. And, on the same street, don’t overlook Cafe Tiamo, right next to the KEB bank and Banwoldang Station. They have study rooms on their second floor and Italian gelato behind the glass counter.

See you there (just don’t talk to me….I’m studying!)

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2 Responses to The Self-Study Culture in Korea

  1. Cassandra says:

    Hello, I’m teaching myself Korean, could you please share the titles of the two books especially the one in the last picture!!!?

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