In Korea, all high school programs last for three years. Individuals who have graduated from middle school or who have passed a qualifying exam and/or an assessment where equivalent credit is granted may enroll in high school. High schools are largely classified into regular, special-purpose, vocational, and autonomous. The methods of admissions differ by the type and/or location (metropolitan or provincial regions) of the school. Presently, high school education is not compulsory, so students have to pay entrance fees and tuition. However, in 2019, catering to strong publicness in primary and secondary education, the government launched free high school education, which is slated to expand—the cost of attendance is set to disappear.

The mission of the high school is to help young people having middle school accomplishments become a democratic citizen capable of communicating with the world and outline their career goals after understanding their aptitude. Aiming at reinforcing essential learning targets and empowering them to do their best with a career plan, a course of study includes the four subject areas: fundamental, exploration, physical education and art, life and culture. Even though students are able to choose from an array of classes that are of their interest, they must fulfill unit requirements. There are also standard and advanced coursework. The standard coursework covers core subjects that every student should complete—in order to equip them with basic academic skills.

Regular high schools involve general education components in a variety of disciplines that make up a major part of all high schools. They consider academic grades and test scores in admissions.

In special-purpose high schools, highly specialized modules are applied to talent in different fields of study. Special-purpose high schools are categorized into science high school, foreign language high school, international high school, arts high school, physical education high school, and customized industry high school. Admissions screening relies on a transcript, teacher recommendation letters, an interview, a performance report, and an assessment of self-directed learning.

Vocational high schools produce creative and intelligent professionals through hands-on teaching and coaching toward aptitude development. In addition to core subjects—Korean, English, mathematics, and social studies, vocational high schools employ pragmatic programs according to their characteristics, such as manufacturing, agriculture/living industry, industry, commerce and information, fisheries/marine science, home economics/business. Admission eligibility is usually determined by a grade, an interview, and a performance.

On a broader level, autonomous high schools have a curriculum similar to regular high schools but feature diversified courses while balancing autonomy and accountability. Autonomous public high schools pick their students on the basis of a random computerized lottery among an application pool; on the other hand, autonomous private high schools use holistic review that takes into account each applicant’s GPA, teacher recommendations, assessment of self-directed learning, and interview.