Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Korean Studies PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Placements/internships

Programme website: Korean Studies

A PhD in Korean Studies is an opportunity to expand upon your interests and expertise in the two Koreas in a community that really values research, and to make an original, positive contribution to learning in this area.

Join our community and undertake a specialised research project under the guidance of experienced and well-published supervisors.

Our programme is based in an Asian Studies department with a unique combination of disciplinary expertise in Korean Studies, Japanese, Chinese, and East Asian Relations.

Reflecting the Korean peninsula's place at the centre of landmark geopolitical developments in the early 21st century, we have particular strengths in:

  • modern Korean history
  • Korean society and culture
  • political economy
  • urban studies
  • security
  • public policy
  • political science
  • international relations

Explore our range of research centres, networks and projects in Asian Studies

Working with colleagues elsewhere in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, and across the wider University, we are able to support PhD theses crossing boundaries between languages and/or disciplines, including:

  • comparative literature
  • film studies
  • translation studies

Be inspired by the range of PhD research in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Over the course of your PhD, you will be expected to complete an original body of work under the expert guidance of your supervisors leading to a dissertation of usually between 80,000 and 100,000 words.

You will be awarded your doctorate if your thesis is judged to be of an appropriate standard, and your research makes a definite contribution to knowledge.

Research excellence

In the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), our research was submitted in the categories of:

  • Modern Languages and Linguistics
  • Politics and International Studies
  • Sociology
  • History
  • Theology and Religious Studies

The results reaffirm Edinburgh’s position as one of the UK’s leading research universities - third in the UK based on the quality and breadth of its research in Modern Languages and Linguistics alone, according to Times Higher Education's REF power ratings.

Go beyond the books

Beyond the Books is a podcast from the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at research and the people who make it happen.

Listen to a mix of PhD, early career and established researchers talk about their journey to and through academia and about their current and recent research. Guests include Dr Youngmi Kim (Series 2 - Episode 3), Senior Lecturer in Korean Studies and Director of the Centre for Korean Studies.

Browse Beyond the Books episodes and hear our research community talk about their work

Although not mandatory, you will be encouraged to take on an internship in either the UK or South Korea.

Potential partners may include the East Asia Institute, Asan Institute for Policy Studies, Seoul National University Asia Centre and the Yun Posun Democracy institute in South Korea.

As a PhD student, you may be actively involved in organising international events such as conferences and workshops hosted by Korean Studies.

During the programme you will also have the opportunity to attend professional development events and training, aiming to equip you with research and other transferable skills.

This programme includes optional training on research skills, methods and problems.

Between the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), the Careers Service and the Institute for Academic Development (IAD), you will find a further range of programmes and resources to help you develop your postgraduate skills.

You will also have access to the University’s fantastic libraries, collections and worldwide strategic partnerships.

Part of a community

As part of our research community, you will be immersed in a world of knowledge exchange, with lots of opportunities to share ideas, learning and creative work.

Activities range from a regular seminar series in Asian Studies (with talks by staff, research students and visiting speakers) to the annual Korean Film Festival, and year-round screenings and workshops.

We play a key role in the yearly symposium held in honour of Edinburgh alumnus Yun Posun, bringing together leading scholars from South Korea, Europe and beyond.

Our graduates tell us that they value LLC’s friendliness, the connections they make here and the in-depth guidance they receive from our staff, who are published experts in their field.

Based in the Main University Library, the Centre for Research Collections is unique in the UK, bringing together a collection of more than 400,000 rare books, six kilometres of archives and manuscripts, and the University’s collections of art, historical musical instruments and other objects.

Notable collections include the East Asian Studies Collection of some 50,000 print and digital resources, including a dedicated Korea Collection supported by the Korea Foundation.

As a PhD candidate here, you will be based at the heart of the University of Edinburgh in a world-leading festival city with a thriving East Asian cultural scene.

Many important collections are a short walk from our buildings, including those in the National Library, Museum, and Galleries of Scotland.

You will acquire an interdisciplinary understanding of the major issues in Korean society, politics, culture, economy and international relations, and history and will be able to relate those to broader social, political and economic trends in the East Asian region and globally. Drawing on different analytical and methodological tools, you will be able to engage various disciplinary and theoretical perspectives and apply concepts to empirical cases.

You will gain the necessary knowledge and skills to analyse, compare and assess competing claims and make informed judgements about them. You will additionally gain transferable skills, including analysis presentation, communication, the use of new technologies in a learning environment, and team work.

Having acquired the tools to analyse and understand the complexities of the two Koreas and East Asian relations in a global context, you could apply your skills in professional areas, such as diplomacy, national and international organisations, and research institutions.

If you choose to pursue a career in an alternative field, you will find the skills you gain in research, communication, presentation and analysis will give you an edge in the competitive employment marketplace.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree and a masters degree, or their international equivalents, in a related subject. We may also consider your application if you have equivalent qualifications or experience; please check with the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) before you apply.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDKorean Studies3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDKorean Studies6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

For entry in September 2024 or January 2025, we are delighted to offer one student paying home (Scotland/UK) rates a scholarship covering full tuition fees for three years of PhD study.

We also have scholarships for up to four students covering up to £3,000 of tuition fees in their first year of study – home and international/EU rates.

These scholarships have been made possible by the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS). You do not need to apply for a scholarship – all eligible candidates who apply for the programme will be considered for them and contacted if successful.

Other funding opportunities

There are a number of other scholarship schemes available to eligible candidates on this PhD programme, including awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Please be advised that many scholarships have more than one application stage, and early deadlines.

We will also make prospective applicants and enrolled students aware of other available funding opportunities as they arise.

Typically, these include scholarship options from the Korea Foundation, SK Foundation, Asan Foundation and the Samsung Foundation.

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH
Programme start dates Application deadlines
9 September 2024 30 June 2024
6 January 2025 31 October 2024

We strongly recommend you submit your completed application as early as possible, particularly if you are also applying for funding or will require a visa. We may consider late applications if we have places available.

You must submit two references with your application.

The online application process involves the completion of a web form and the submission of supporting documents.

For a PhD programme, you should include:

  • a sample of written work of about 3,000 words (this can be a previous piece of work from an undergraduate or masters degree)
  • a research proposal - a detailed description of what you hope to achieve and how

Guidance on the application process and writing a research proposal

Before you apply, you should also look at the interests and expertise of our research community on the programme website. This will help you decide if this programme is right for you and your supervision needs.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH