Brain drain, circulation, and linkage
This chapter examines Korean nationals studying abroad as a source of diversity, especially regarding knowledge of global contexts and new innovations. Policy-makers, executives, and the media have long been concerned about “brain drain,” which occurs when talented Koreans study abroad and remain in their host countries, contributing their talents and skills there instead of returning home. In recent years, discussions of study abroad have broadened to encompass the possibility of brain circulation, which occurs when students remain abroad and build their human and social capital in the workplace before bringing these resources back to Korea. Such brain circulation is especially potent as individuals often maintain their connections with both Korea and their host countries, magnifying the creativity and absorptive capacity benefits of embedding them back into Korean society. What has yet to be discussed, however, is the possibility of brain linkage, where students remain abroad permanently but nevertheless maintain ties and funnel resources back into Korea. This chapter examines the conditions under which brain drain, circulation, and linkage occur among Korean graduates of Stanford University, and finds that students are more likely to return home if they completed their undergraduate studies in Korea before heading abroad, and if they studied in fields where Korea offers adequate or perhaps even superior job prospects. This chapter also provides concrete but limited evidence of brain linkage, in the form of Koreans who remained overseas, yet provided funding and advice for Korean start-ups.