So, I’ve decided to address this issue of Korean proficiency after getting many questions over these years.
First of all, to make a differentiation, most universities in Korea have various tracks for admissions. For instance, Yonsei University has an admission directly for Underwood International College (its all-English undergraduate programme), and another regular admission for the other colleges. So in this case, for admissions to UIC, you would not need Korean proficiency.
However, for the regular admission, you would definitely need Korean proficiency. Even if some of the classes offered in say, the College of Business is conducted in English, during admission to the College of Business itself, you need to have Korean proficiency. Even if you are planning to choose only English classes (if they even offer enough classes conducted in English that you are able to complete the number of credits to graduate, which is usually quite unlikely), you would still need Korean proficiency.
Of course, there are some universities that state that for some majors, Korean proficiency is not required. Most of the time, it would be probably the English majors, or some universities that have some global business programmes or international studies/global studies programme. If so, then good (or bad, depending on how much you want to learn Korean) for you (:
However, there are some universities that accept students conditionally. So for instance, the Korean proficiency requirement is actually TOPIK Level 4, but you only obtained Level 3. Since your Korean proficiency is below that of the requirement, technically you don’t fulfill the admissions requirement. However, some universities still accept you for admission, and have you take part-time Korean language classes as you simultaneously take your other major classes for the semester.
While it sounds like a good plan for the students who really want to enter the university, I personally do not agree with such policies. Neither do I think that universities that only require TOPIK Level 3 for majors that are conducted in Korean are fully aware of the consequences on the students. I say this on a personal level, based on my own experience and the experiences of people around me, and so I hope to share our stories so to help all of you hoping to come to Korea for your studies make a more informed decision.