Koreans spent a record W271,000 a month on private after-school classes for their children last year (US$1=W1,065).
According to the Ministry of Education on Thursday, spending on private crammers grew for a second year to W18.6 trillion in 2017 even though the number of students fell from 5.88 million in 2016 to 5.73 million.
Total crammer spending peaked at W21.6 trillion in 2009, when there were far more children around, and then declined steadily, only to rebound in 2016.
But the ministry said the increase was mainly due to more parents sending their children to arts and sports classes, rather than relentless cramming in academic subjects.
Spending on crammers teaching academic subjects actually fell a slight 0.6 percent to W13.6 trillion. But spending on arts and sports classes rose 9.9 percent to W5 trillion, accounting for 27 percent of the total, the highest in a decade.
The amount of money Koreans spend on helping their kids develop a more rounded personality with arts and sports has been rising for several years, reaching W107,000 a month for elementary schoolkids last year.
But Lim Jin-taek, head admissions officer at Kyunghee University said, "The increase in spending on arts and sports lessons should be viewed as a new social trend rather than linked to university entrance preparations. In the past, kids simply got together to play soccer, but these days they join soccer classes."
With the standard of living rising, private arts and sports lessons will become more common, experts said.
Spending on English lessons, which used to account for the biggest proportion of expenditures on private crammers, fell 2.2 percent last year to W5.4 trillion. But spending on math and Korean rose 0.6 percent and 11 percent.
This is apparently due to the new government's decision to apply an absolute grading scale in the English section of the college entrance exams.
But critics doubt the accuracy of the per-capita figures since a single course at a crammer costs between W300,000 and W400,000. The discrepancy stems from the government averaging out the amount by combining both the 70.5 percent of children who go to private crammers and the rest who do not, probably because their parents cannot afford it.