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Korean language education goes global

In recent years, there has been a rise in worldwide interest in learning Korean, along with the ever-growing popularity of Korean pop culture around the world. The widespread enthusiasm for K-pop and dramas has led fans overseas craving to learn the Korean language, a prerequisite to understanding Korean culture.

In light of the increasing demand for Korean language education, the Korean government recently announced plans to add new branches of the state-run King Sejong Institute and extend the network of the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK).

TOPIK reaches a record high in number of applicants

TOPIK has been an essential element of the application process for foreign job seekers and prospective students who want to pursue their career in Korea.

On January 29, foreign applicants converged at the 14 designated locations to take the 25th TOPIK test held in Seoul, Busan, Jeju and other cities across Korea. This year, the test was taken by a total of 15,983 non-native Korean speaking examinees, setting a new record high in number of applicants for a single TOPIK test. The figure implies a twofold increase compared to the 8,233 test takers, who took part in the 21st test held in January 2011.


Non-native Korean-speaking examinees take the 25th TOPIK test on January 29 (photo courtesy of the National Institute for International Education Development)Non-native Korean-speaking examinees take the 25th TOPIK test on January 29 (photo courtesy of the National Institute for International Education Development)

In an effort to make the test more accessible to a wider audience, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the National Institute for International Education Development (NIIED) announced plans to add more test locations. In addition to diversifying the test network, TOPIK organizers also aim to improve the test’s authority by adjusting the start time to avoid leakage of test questions. The official language proficiency test score will be valid within two years from the test date.

TOPIK is designed to measure the ability of non-native Korean speaking population to use Korean in everyday activities. It is conducted four times annually in Korea, in January, April, July, and October, with two sessions simultaneously held in select overseas test sites -- including Korean embassies and Korean culture centers -- for the April and October sessions.

For more information, please visit the official website (Korean, English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, German, French, Mongolian, and Vietnamese)

King Sejong Institute extends network overseas

One way to gain a better command of Korean outside of Korea is to enroll in a branch of the state-run King Sejong Institute.

Students of the King Sejong Institute in Dushanbe, Tajikistan participate at the 2011 Korean language summer camp (photo courtesy of the International Korean Language Foundation)Students of the King Sejong Institute in Dushanbe, Tajikistan participate at the 2011 Korean language summer camp (photo courtesy of the International Korean Language Foundation)


Along with the rapidly growing interest in learning the Korean language, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the International Korean Language Foundation announced on January 26 that more branches of the King Sejong Institute will open within the first half of the year. Fifteen locations were newly designated to foster Korean language education abroad, out of 38 candidates from 16 nations.

Starting with the official opening of the King Sejong Institute in Bau-Bau City, Indonesia on January 30, the Culture Ministry will open new branches in twelve nations, including New York, China, Thailand, and Kazakhstan.

The Culture Ministry partnered with the University of Bonn in Germany to run the German King Sejong Institute, reflecting the recent K-pop craze in European countries. The Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in Lima and the University of Algiers II located in the Algerian capital became the first South American and North African branches respectively.

Students learn Korean at the London branch of the King Sejong Institute (photo courtesy of the International Korean Language Foundation)Students learn Korean at the London branch of the King Sejong Institute (photo courtesy of the International Korean Language Foundation)


In an attempt to provide quality Korean language education, the Culture Ministry is also set to dispatch 20 professional instructors from Korea to overseas institutes on a trial basis for the first time, to upgrade the expertise of Korean language teachers upon a noticeable increase in demand from local branches.

Named after King Sejong the Great (1397-1450), the creator of the Korean alphabet, the King Sejong Institute also known as or Sejong Hakdang has nurtured as a unified brand name for globalizing Hangeul, enhancing recognition and accessibility of the Korean language worldwide.

The King Sejong Institute has also been at the forefront of promoting Korean culture overseas with a variety of cultural hands-on programs. Students at the Beijing branch showcase a Korean fan dance performance on the last day of the language course (photo courtesy of the International Korean Language Foundation)The King Sejong Institute has also been at the forefront of promoting Korean culture overseas with a variety of cultural hands-on programs. Students at the Beijing branch showcase a Korean fan dance performance on the last day of the language course (photo courtesy of the International Korean Language Foundation)

The institute, operated with the support of the Culture Ministry, now runs a total of 75 branches spread out across 34 nations around the globe. With 15 more additions expected in the second half of the year, the number of King Sejong Institutes will rise to 90 by end of this year.

For more information, please visit the official website (Korean, English, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Mongolian).

By Hwang Dana
Korea.net Staff Writer

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