Song Hyang-geun, president of the King Sejong Institute Foundation, left, and Google Korea CEO Yeom Dong-hoon pose during the inauguration ceremony for the foundation at the National Museum of Korea, Wednesday. The two organizations signed an agreement for cooperation on promoting Korean language and culture. / Yonhap
Hangeul has played a key role in spreading Korean culture and more people are showing interest in learning it around the world.
Seoul officially launched a new foundation for the management and support of state-sponsored Korean language institutes all over the world Wednesday at a ceremony at the National Museum of Korea.
The foundation’s main duty will be upgrading the quality of Korean language education abroad through developing text books and training methods.
More than 150 dignitaries and experts attended the inauguration ceremony, including Culture Minister Choe Kwang-shik and Song Hyang-geun, who was recently appointed to lead the King Sejong Institute Foundation. Song is a professor of Korean at the Busan University of Foreign Studies.
Named after the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) king who oversaw the development of the Korean alphabet of Hangeul, King Sejong Institutes offer language education programs teaching Korean as a second language. King Sejong, who reigned from 1418-1450, developed a writing system for the Korean language with a team of researchers.
Starting with 16 institutes in Mongolia and five other Asian countries in 2007, the number has risen to 90 in 43 countries globally. More than 17,000 students were learning Korean languages at Sejong institutes as of August, according to the ministry.
The language classes take place at overseas Korean cultural centers or in universities that have departments for Korean studies.
As part of efforts to promote Korean culture, the government will establish 14 additional language institutes before the end of this year.
The 14 newly designated locations include Santiago, Chile; Venice, Italy; Auckland, New Zealand; and Bogota, Colombia.
Hangeul, or the Korean alphabet, is considered one of the most treasured cultural creations of the country. Recently it has been a popular cultural source.
The popularity of Korean pop music, or K-pop, and TV dramas in foreign countries has led to rising demand for learning Korean. In 2006, around 34,000 took the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK). The number rose to 450,000 last year.