The ISB Story


The 1980’s – An International School is Born

The International School of Pusan opened in September 1983 with 12 young pupils in Kindergarten and Elementary School, and two teachers. They were the founding Headmaster, Mr. Tracey and the first teacher, Mrs. Tracey. The school shared a building in Haeundae with a Korean Preschool. The student body grew steadily to around 60 children and in 1986 the school moved from Banyeo-dong to a renovated building in the Choryang area. David Taylor was appointed as Headmaster and more teachers were hired. The school maintained a close relationship with the Baptist Mission and Hospital. In 1988 Korea hosted the Olympic games and ISP followed suit with a special mini-Olympics event.

The 1990’s – Accreditation and Financial Crisis

In the early 1990s, the school became a member of the European Council of International Schools and received accreditation by this major international education organisation in 1994. Headmasters during the 1990s were Mark Gifford (UK), Allan Darby (UK), Peter Gotts (Australia) and Hugh Younger (New Zealand).

In the beginning of 1994, the Choryang building lease ended and the school moved to school facilities provided by Tong Myong University. In the mid-1990s, the Asian Financial Crisis (related to the International Monetary Fund) hit the Korean economy and affected the school with many expats leaving Korea. Peter Gotts was appointed Headmaster as an emergency measure in 1996. He stayed for 2 years. 

On April 14th, 1999 the first work began on a new site for the school on Dalmaji Hill. The excavation was watched with great interest and joy by Haejune Rhew (project Manager), Tore Jacobsen (Chairman of the Board), Professor Ryu (Consultant), Hugh Younger (Headmaster) and Mr. Jeoh (Architect.) The new school on Dalmaji opened its door for students on September 2nd and the grand opening took place on October 22nd, 1999.


The 2000’s – The Dalmaji Years

 Ian Woodfield (New Zealand) became Headmaster and the school’s reputation grew. By 2002, with Stephen Palmer (UK) joining as Principal, the school’s enrolment had increased to 72. Soon the school had outgrown the premises and, in 2006, opened a separate Early Learning Centre (that incorporated train carriages!). 2006 also saw the introduction of the High School Programme with the start of the IGCSE from the University of Cambridge. Early in 2008, ISB gained authorization to offer the IB Diploma Programme for Grades 11 and 12. Also, ISB became only the second school in Korea to achieve authorization to offer the IB Primary Years Programme. 2009 was a year of uncertainty and success as ISB presented its bid to operate the new Busan International Foreign School located just outside Songjeong. Finally in November 2009, the papers were signed and ISB was ready to transform into BIFS for the start of the 2010-11 year.

2010-2019 – The BIFS Years

ISB closed its doors for the final time on Dalmaji Hill on the June 23rd and BIFS officially opened on August 23rd, 2010. The new campus made an incredible difference to how the school could deliver its curriculum and BIFS fast expanded its reputation both within and outside of Korea. Student numbers grew steadily with around 300 students from Nursery to Grade 12 and around 50 teachers. Kevin Baker (US) was appointed as the new Head of School in 2014. The school was now an authorised 3 programme IB Continuum School with student numbers briefly reaching the 500 mark and substantial growth in the Middle and High School area. During 2016, the downturn in oil prices started to affect Busan industry and this in turn led to a reduction in the school population. The school adapted to the new economic reality by streamlining services in order to continue to provide the best education possible. Following a successful 2017-18 school year, the decision was made to revert to the original English name of International School of Busan in order to differentiate the school from local competition and to emphasise our standing as the longest established, truly international school in Busan.

In August 2019 our school once again opened its doors as the International School of Busan. The same year our new Head of School, Mr. Simon McCloskey (UK) joined the school. The new school logo was launched in our 35th anniversary year and includes elements of the Korean flag representing our long history in Busan.

Now with around 300 students and 50 teachers from across the globe, we continue to be the school of choice for internationally-minded families seeking a quality IB education in Busan. We remain truly international – with staff and students representing more than 35 nationalities.