Academic Credit Bank System in South Korea

Approximately 80% of all Korean youngsters attend college or university. The government needed a way to address the 20% that did not. In 1995 the government proposed, via the Education Reform Committee, mandating continuing education, consolidating it, and enforcing its acceptance. This was accomplished by a series of legislative acts that resulted in the creation of the Academic Credit Bank System (ACBS). In 1997, the Act on the Recognition of Academic Credit (Law No. 5275) and its Enforcement Decree (Presidential Decree No. 15478) were established and passed through the legislature. In 1998, the law’s Enforcement Rule (Education Ministry Decree No. 713) was enacted and pronounced. This series of acts ensured that for the first time in the country there were formal methods for recognizing credits accumulated outside the standard university system and transferring those credits to recognized degree granting institutions. The ACBS represents a consolidated effort to combine several different methods of learning so that students are still able to earn degrees regardless of circumstance.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for oversight of the ACBS, curriculum planning, and determining which schools and courses are worthy of credit. The Ministry maintains a list of recognized providers, some of which are junior colleges and universities, others are private institutions.

The standard curriculum of the ACBS is mandated by the Minister of Education, Science and Technology to regulate the overall coordination between the standards for recognizing evaluation and credits and the requirements for awarding college degrees. The curriculum consists of cultural and liberal arts studies; major courses; and general electives. The minimum number of credits:

  • Bachelor’s degree is 140 (minimum 30 credits for non-major courses and 60 credits for major courses) to guarantee a four-year college/university degree;
  • Three-year junior college degree is 120 credits (minimum 15 credits for non-major courses and 45 credits for major courses);
  • Two-year junior college degree is 80 credits (minimum 15 credits for non-major courses and 45 credits for major courses).
One credit is equivalent to a 15-unit course that lasts more than two weeks, with a unit being one 50-minute class. In order to earn a junior-college degree or a college/university degree, students must secure the required credits by acquiring credits from education/training institutions, obtaining a license/permit, passing self-study examinations, earning credits via part-time academic programs, and/or accumulating credits from ACBS-affilliated schools including formal colleges and universities. Students must also submit an ACBS learner registration application and apply for the approval of their credits.

There are essentially three degrees issued through the ACBS:

  1. Ministry issued degrees: Collect enough credits via any of the institutions approved by the Ministry, for which there are updated lists. Once the appropriate amount of credits is earned, the Ministry issues a degree.
  2. University issued degrees: The same credit requirements apply, i.e. 140 for bachelor’s etc., however a student may earn a university degree by completing credits at the university. For a bachelor’s degree, a student must complete at least 84 credits at the university and a minimum of 18 credits must be earned via ACBS. Of the 140 total credits for a degree 85 are university credits; the other credits are transfer credits from the ACBS. The same is true for associate degree programs: for a 2-year program 48 credits must be university credits; in a 3-year program, 65 credits should be university credits.
  3. Second degree: Students who hold a bachelor’s degree or associate degree may earn another degree via the ACBS. Bachelor – additional 48 credits, associate – 2-year 36 credits, 3-year 42 credits.

Credit may be earned through six different methods. All of the credits have to be approved by the Ministry prior to being included on the transcript. The charts below provide greater detail on the areas from which credit can be earned.

  1. Courses at accredited programs
  2. Certificate Acquisition
  3. Examination for the self-educated/Exemption from the examination course for the self-educated
  4. Credits from recognized prior colleges & universities
  5. Courses at college and universities by part-time enrollment
  6. Important intangible cultural properties

Credits accumulated through the above methods are compiled and listed together on a Transcript of Academic Record issued by Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI).


"ACBS : Open Learning System in the Tertiary Sector"

"Academic Credit Bank System" policy:



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