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Korean studies gaining ground in Middle East

With the announcement that K-Pop group BTS will play their first concert in Saudi Arabia this October – and Super Junior and Stray Kids having already wowed audiences in Jeddah – Korean studies across the Middle East have never been more popular.

Korean-K-PopK-Pop exports have inspired many Middle Eastern fans to learn Korean. PHOTO: Wikimedia

King Sejong Institute also offers classes on K-Pop dancing and Taekwondo

The King Sejong Institute, which works with the Korean government to offer courses in Korean language, culture and history abroad, currently has 180 locations in 60 countries including Bahrain, the UAE, Egypt and Iran.

“The demand for learning Korean language and culture is continuously increasing”

“We started with 40 students in September 2016, increasing to around 200 in 2017, and 300 students 2018,” Chaerin Park, operational coordinator and Korean teacher at the King Sejong Institute in Manama, Bahrain told The PIE News.

“Some students were already interested in Korea, for instance, they were into K-dramas and K-pop. Others wanted to visit Korea or had already travelled to Korea, and others still want to study in Korea.”

“We have our regular courses at Ahlia University and we have elective courses at the University of Bahrain.” Park continued.

“This summer, we started a class at Bahrain Polytechnic as well. Now we’re expecting elective courses at Ahlia University and Bahrain Polytechnic hopefully from September.

“The demand for learning Korean language and culture is continuously increasing and we’re very happy about it.”

In addition to languages, the King Sejong Institute also offers classes on K-Pop dancing and Taekwondo.

“There are a number of institutes which offer Korean courses in Middle Eastern countries. Many of them are Korean government initiatives, and others are from the local universities,” Minji Seo, project manager at the Korea-Arab Society, told The PIE.

“In Saudi Arabia, there are Korean language courses in local universities like Prince Sultan University and King Saud University. There could be more considering the high demand, especially in women’s universities.”

Learning Arabic also became popular among students in South Korea, albeit for slightly different reasons.

In 2017, the Korean Herald reported that seven out of 10 students electing to sit a second foreign language test for the Suneung (College Scholastic Ability Test) chose Arabic.

Students had figured out that by picking a less popular language – instead of Chinese or Japanese – they stood to do better due to the exam’s relative grading system.

Despite only six high schools in the country offering the language, almost 52,000 students sat the Arabic exam that year.

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