South Korea’s Credit Banking System Turns 20 - Part 2: Recent Changes

After 20 years, the South Korean Credit Bank System continues to grow in popularity, and the government continues to work to improve the transparency and accessibility of the program.

After a series of recently passed legislation, the Ministry of Education has clearly defined the similarities and differences between degrees awarded through the Academic Credit Bank System (ACBS) and traditional institutions. Both pathways result in legally recognized degrees, may lead to career advancement, comprise liberal arts and major credit, and award diplomas in February or August.

Unlike traditional institutions, ACBS operates according to strict legislation:

  • Admission requires a high school diploma but does not rely on college entrance examinations. 
  • Credits and courses are based on a standardized curriculum.
  • ACBS provides a variety of ways to earn credits, a clear process for registration, and fixed prices for registration (4,000 won (~3.60USD)) and credit application (1,000 won per credit (~0.90 USD)).

ACBS has approved nearly 120 bachelor’s degree majors and 110 associate’s degree specializations. 
Bachelor (examples of majors) Associate (examples of specialties)


Business Administration

Business Administration





Military Engineering




Industrial Arts
(furniture design, ceramics crafts, set design)

Military Science

Administrative Studies


Language Arts


(Korean music, photography)


Physical Education


Another recent development has been the categorization of acceptable credits. ACBS will not accept courses without first matching them to the approved standardized curriculum. Even if credit is acquired or courses completed, ACBS may not recognize it or approve it. Aiming for transparency, ACBS has published all of the requirements because traditional schools and employers have expressed skepticism about some of the credentials that have been awarded credit.

The other noteworthy development has taken place in the national intangible cultural properties category. Intangible cultural assets refer to designated State cultural assets recognized as having immense preservation value. These are cultural properties that have been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years.  They include knowledge on traditional performing arts, crafts and arts, traditional knowledge on Korean medicine, agriculture and fishery, traditional traditions and expressions, traditional lifestyle customs such as clothing and shelter, ceremonies, traditional plays, festivals, and artistry. ACBS now provides clearer definitions for courses that this category comprises. Each of the certificates earned or courses completed is assigned a credit value. For example, a course in Naju, the Korean art of weaving, may earn 3 credits for 6 hours of practical training. The course is not offered at private or public institutions but instead could be satisfied through volunteering at one of the historical sites.

The Academic Credit Bank System has been a boon for people interested in pursuing further education through alternative routes without having to seek opportunities outside of the country. It has allowed Koreans to improve employment outlooks when traditional routes were viewed as inaccessible. It has provided a means of recognizing credentials obtained while working or raising children. 

By placing academic value on learning endeavors that traditionally have not been accepted as credit-bearing, ACBS has also generated renewed interest in cultural identity and the antiquity of Korean civilization. The methodology defined by the ACBS could provide solutions on a global footing. How alternative credentials are defined and used in adult continuing education has been a prevalent dilemma in the United States that has sparked a growing interest in establishing a unified approach to interpreting and understanding competency-based education. The ACBS could represent a blueprint for other countries to learn from or a model to emulate to ensure consistent evaluation of alternative credentials in the fast-growing continuing education sector. 

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Connection Advantage logo Connection Advantage subscribers: You can view examples of transcripts and diplomas from the Credit Bank in our Sample Documents.

William Bellin is a Senior Evaluator who has been with ECE since 2008. William has contributed to several publications, including the ECE® publication Education in the Commonwealth Caribbean. He is  also the author of The Islamic Republic of Iran: Its Educational System and Methods of Evaluation.



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