The current system has long been criticized for producing officials unqualified to face real diplomacy due to lack of practical qualifications, such as language skills, strategic thinking, and comprehensive knowledge of the world.
“The academy will focus more on a student’s competence, a definite qualification for a real diplomat,” said Chang Jae-ryang, chief assistant to the chancellor of the KNDA. “The applicants will therefore be selected under a test system that cannot be passed by regurgitating facts, but rather by writing essays and undergoing interviews.”
The KNDA will further offer a different style of education from that of the previous methodology. The academy plans to minimize the passive form of education and encourage an active, participative form of learning.
“We are now preparing a new curriculum to be launched in December 2013,” Chang said. “This one-year program will adopt the ‘case method’ in helping students develop professional knowledge as well as the ability to make decisions efficiently through accurate analysis of a situation.”
With the new system, the recruitment number of diplomat nominees is expected to rise. Approximately 40 applicants pass the Senior Foreign Service Examination, while the new academy estimates to select approximately 60 candidates.
The academy’s tuition fee will be provided entirely by the government, allowing students to attend free of charge. They will be also given basic living expenses as trainees in the KNDA.
However, despite the advanced education system the KNDA plans to offer, students who have been preparing for the previous exam have stated their disappointments at the seemingly abrupt change in the system.
“It has been roughly three years since I started preparing for the Senior Foreign Service Examination,” Lee Hyun-jin (Korea University, 3) said. “As the new academy does not offer a specific exam for students with English abilities, the establishment of KNDA is making things worse for my situation.”
Such worries continue among students who have just begun preparing for the KNDA entrance exam.
“Even if the students are accepted by the academy, they have to invest one year to be trained, which makes it longer to become a diplomat,” Son Yeon-ji (Politics and Diplomacy, 3) said.
Some students, on the other hand, welcome the new system.
“The policy of receiving education from people fully engaged in the field of diplomacy is very appealing to me,” Cho Min-ji (Seoul National University, 4) said.
The KNDA now awaits future diplomats planning to apply starting next year.
“The academy looks forward to nurturing future diplomats who understand Korea’s role as a middle power in the rapidly changing international environment of the 21st century, coping with diverse counterparts flexibly,” Chang said.