Were you around when Psy’s “Gangnam Style” song hit the global billboards and reached billions of views worldwide in the space of weeks? It’s hard to forget this. But then there’s also BTS with their hit song “Dynamite”, which made it on the Billboard hot 100 charts. How about the movie “Parasite” which won four Oscars at the 92nd Oscars award ceremony in Los Angeles? It’s true. Through films, dramas, music, culture, and cuisine, the “Korean wave” is making its wave around the world.
Korean language popularity
It’s no secret that there’s been an increase in Korean language popularity over the last few years. With South Korea’s expanding export markets across the globe and improving economic status as the seventh largest exporter in the world, it is undeniable that Korean has become one of the most popular languages for learning.
Why learn Korean
You might be wondering “why learn Korean?” and the answers are many. From a much deeper cultural experience that will enable you to more thoroughly understand Korean culture, to a more in-depth understanding of Korean dramas, films and K-pop, to the fact that large Korean companies like Lotte, Kia, Samsung and others are expanding across the globe, the potential for doing business and job opportunities is expanding significantly.
Recent figures indicate that Korean is the 14th most spoken language in the world with over 70 million Korean language speakers. In 2020 alone, nearly 160,000 students enrolled in Korean classes, aiming to learn and master the language. The fact that the world is becoming a global village means that more and more people need to learn Asian languages, with Korean being a top priority.
How is Korean being introduced?
The Korean government, riding on the “Korean wave” of pop culture, as well as rising global demand in business, is trying to make learning Korean more accessible to the thousands of learners mentioned above. They are doing this through the King Sejong Institutes, of which there are about 213 institutes in 76 countries. Similar to Germany’s Goethe Institutes, the King Sejong Institutes are present in three German cities at the moment, namely at universities in Berlin, Mannheim, and Tubingen.
What about the financial investment?
According to the Korean Education Ministry, plans are in place to invest 23.6 billion won (about $20.7 million) to “provide assistance for Korean language education at 1,800 schools in 43 countries.” This figure is almost double of what was invested in the previous year. And despite the Covid-19 pandemic, “demand for Korean language training is increasing due to hallyu or ‘Korean wave’, including K-pop”.
Hangul is Korea’s alphabet. It was ingeniously designed several centuries ago to make it one of the easiest alphabets to work with and memorize. The characters have a simplistic logic behind them, and they have been designed to “mirror” the sounds and shapes made in one’s mouth to make them easier for pronunciation. While Hangul may be relatively easy to learn, the language itself requires some serious commitment and effort to be invested in it.
What careers can be pursued with Korean?
There are a wide range of career opportunities if one decides to learn Korean. These range from interpreters and translators, to teachers and trainers, to travel and tourism, and of course, business. The business world is shrinking, and this is why there is such high demand for Korean, particularly in India, which is an important Korean export partner.
To wrap up, it’s becoming ever-evident that Korean is a language that is gaining in international prominence. It is being studied by hundreds of thousands of students and professionals across the world as these individuals seek to gain new career, educational, and professional heights. Through the implementation and introduction of the King Sejong institutes around the world, it is evident that there will be an even greater emphasis on teaching Korean and the associated culture that comes into play. Korean is a very deep language and South Korea is a country with a profound history and its culture plays a major role in people’s everyday lives. If you are looking to tap into this rich culture, then learning Korean will help broaden your mind, test your brain prowess, and help enrich you personally and professionally.