India Lures Korean Students with IT, English Study

Article excerpt

In ancient times, Koreans braved penance-filled pilgrimages to India on foot for the sake of mastering the profound secrets of Buddhism, which was founded in northern India around 500 B.C. Nowadays, some of their descendants are duplicating these efforts.

However, their journeys are no longer aimed at cultivating their spirituality but learning information technology (IT), the foundation of the New Economy.

The country is attracting a growing number of students as a global center of modern technology.

According to an official tally, a total of 15,335 Koreans traveled to the Republic of India last year, up 16 percent from 1999.

``They come for various purposes such as tours and business trips. In particular, many students are asking about the study conditions there,'' said Chung Moo-chin, head of India Club, a travel agency specializing in India. Scores of people were unable to fly to India due to insufficient seats on flights last winter, added the author of a travel guide.

What attracts these ``young Korean tigers'' to India while most of their peers are still America-bound? When thinking of India, what may come to mind[unknown characters]is Yoga, Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), the hierarchic Caste system, the Indus valley civilization and poor living conditions.

Although these stereotyped images may not be too far from the truth, we are missing an important aspect of modern day India in this era of knowledge-based societies.

Amid the worldwide dotcom frenzy, nobody denies that India is joining or has already joined the ranks of IT superpowers.

In fact, the country is the world's second largest software exporter after the United States, taking up 18.5 percent of the world software market. Out of some 2,000 CEOs of Silicon Valley-based venture firms, 40 percent hail from India, and more than 200 of the Fortune 500 companies use Indian software. Such IT giants as IBM, Intel, Motorola, Texas Instrument and Oracle, as well as Korean conglomerates like LG and Samsung have already set up large local corporations, proving that India is fast emerging as a new IT Mecca. What enabled India, which missed the Industrial Revolution, to become one of the biggest beneficiaries of the IT Revolution? Experts cite two factors -- English and an abundance of human resources. Indians' fluency in English, the lingua franca of the Internet era, has played a big role in the country's success in the IT industry. The use of English in India is a legacy of the three-century-long British colonialism. In particular, the nation boasts a world-class IT education infrastructure.

Indian universities, including the Institute of Technology, commonly referred to as Asia's MIT, as well as private training centers produce about 60,000 quality IT engineers annually, double that of 30,000 in the U.S.

In recognition of India's advanced status in this sector, a local school, Sungkonghoe University, has developed an IT manpower training program -- ``Indian Window'' -- under which its students study at APTEC, an India-based world-class IT institute with which Sungkonghoe has established a tie-up.

``The name of the program was chosen to encourage our students to try to view the world through India's eyes,'' said Prof. Kim Yong-ho, 44, a faculty member of the university's communication department and the founder of the program. He went on to say, ``I used to work at an IT venture firm until 1999, when I started working here, and recognized the advanced level of the Indian IT industry and its great potential to make inroads into foreign markets.'' APTEC's one-year curriculum is composed of three main parts -- one month of basic computer training, eight months of core class instruction, and an internship at a local firm for the remaining three months. Students can choose one of three subjects -- software development, multimedia, and e-commerce.

However, despite the programs attractiveness, only 27 out of some 5,000 Sungkonghoe students applied for it in 1999, the first year it was offered, mainly due to India's stereotyped image. …