Demand for Korean language and studies rises on renewed K-wave fervor

2022.07.12 15:01:51 | 2022.07.12 15:14:00

[Photo by Yonhap]이미지 확대

[Photo by Yonhap]

Global learning in the Korean language has spiked in line with renewed fervor over Korean entertainment contents and stars last year when BTS and Squid Game created a splash.

According to the National Institute for International Education (NIIED) on Tuesday, the number of Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) applicants from overseas reached 191,194 last year, rising by threefold from 64,057 in 2020. This year’s tally is expected to top the record-high of 192,284 in 2019.

“The number of TOPIK test-takers abroad would have been higher if we counted those who were unable to take the exam because of Covid-19,” said an official from NIIED. If not for the Covid-19 disturbance, the number of applicants could have reached 400,000 last year, the official added.

Test-takers from Japan rose significantly despite the diplomatic row over historical and trade issues. The ratio of Japanese that made up 8.9 percent of the total test-takers in 2020 jumped to 21 percent in 2021.

According to King Sejong Institute, which is responsible for overseas Korean language education, the number of students surged to 81,000 last year from 740 when it was first established in 2007. Including online students, there were a total of 165,000 students last year.

“More are learning the Korean language after becoming infatuated with Korean content,” said an official from King Sejong Institute.

Foreign institutions are responding to the growing demand in Korean studies by establishing Korean language and culture programs. Five prestigious U.S. schools – UC Berkeley, Northwestern University, The University of Iowa, Georgia Institute of Technology, and the University of Pennsylvania – expanded their Korean studies program by hiring professors from the field in 2021.

According to the Ministry of Education, the Korean language will be added as a college admission exam subject option in Hong Kong starting in 2025.

By Kim Jung-seok and Susan Lee

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