14 more “Sejonghakdang” branches opening after thorough examination processes for qualification in the second half of year

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Korean Language Globalization Foundation announced the opening of 14 more branches of “Sejonghakdang”, which is an organization that cultivates Korean language and culture abroad, recognizing the popularity of learning Korean language. Sejong was the fourth king of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) credited with the creation of the Korean alphabet, ‘Hangeul’.

The Sejonghakdang program was first started in 2007 with twelve facilities in major cities such as Tokyo and New York. These language classes take place at overseas Korean Cultural Centers or in universities that have departments for Korean studies. “The King Sejong Institute” has now 90 institutes in 43 countries as of 2012. The new branches are located in: Nayarit in Mexico, São Leopoldo in Brazil, Santiago in Chile, Bogota in Colombia, Tubingen in Germany, Mykolaiv in Ukraine, Venezia in Italy, Auckland in New Zealand, Luang Prabang in Laos, Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, Samarkand in Uzbekistan, Yanzhou in China, Taldykorgan in Kazakhstan, and Islamabad in Pakistan.

King Sejong Institute, Kazakhstan (photo courtesy of MCST)

Sejonghakdang receives applications from the organizations which wish to establish the institute twice a year and finalizes the process by a qualification examination. In the first round in 2012, 15 institutes in twelve countries including Algeria and Peru were newly opened. For the second round, 70 institutes in 30 countries participated in the process resulting in high competition. Among them, 37 institutes were spread in diverse regions far from Asia. It shows that ‘Hangeul’ has recently spread around the globe, not only for Asia but also for Europe and South America, fueled by the Korean wave such as K-pop and K-drama.

Enhancing existing faculties of Korean studies
Petitions written due to the popularity of learning Korean

Most new facilities will be added to existing university faculties that offer Korean studies so that resources for Korean education can be utilized efficiently. Among them, eight universities including Ca’ Foscari University of Venice in Italy and the University of Tübingen in Germany already offer Korean studies. They can be the best institutes for students to train in the field of Korean studies. It is expected that the present Korean wave can be diversified beyond Korean pop culture to literature, film, and traditional Korean music, based on Korean education.

King Sejong Institute, Nairobi, Kenya (photo courtesy of MCST)

Also, eight institutes out of 14 will be run by their own governments for the first time. In Mykolaiv, Ukraine, 178 people wrote petitions showing their ceaseless passion for learning Korean. In Brazil, Korea’s largest export partner in South America, the Universidade do Vale do Rio dos Sinos (Usinos) and Pai Chai University of South Korea cooperate to run “Sejonghakdang”. Unisinos is considered the best private university in the southern region of Brazil and the third-best private university in the country by Brazil’s Education Ministry. In Chile, all seats for a JYJ concert were sold out on March this year. Korean automobiles in the market reach 40% in Chile. Due to excellent brand images of Korean corporations and Korea, demand for learning Korean is increasing. The new opening in Chile is meaningful because it is the 50th anniversary of diplomatic friendship between the two countries.

Training program set up for dispatched Korean teachers

High interest in Korean culture abroad and increasing demand for learning Korean call for a fast execution plan for upgrading Korean language teaching through certified Korean teachers with professionalism. For the first time, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism recruited 22 certified teachers who have the certification based on Article 19 of the Framework Act on the National Language and has a dispatch plan to 14 institutes in eleven countries including Mongolia, Vietnam, and Turkey. The certified Korean teachers who passed the documentation and interview procedure will receive three weeks’ training at Keimyung University before departure.

King Sejong Institute, Abu Dhabi, UAE (photo courtesy of MCST)

The training program is designed for the certified teachers to recognize their role and responsibility as a culture diplomat abroad and to adapt to the new environment successfully. It provides both theory and practicum for teachers to equip strong basic theory of Korean language as a second language and an overall view of Korean culture. Also it highlights teaching methods with cultural engagement and helps to write execution plans. The dispatched teachers will take part in the fourth World Korean Language Teachers’ Conference from August 22 to 24 after the training program. They will visit various Korean attractions, experience Korean traditional culture, and have opportunities to network with staff abroad.

The ‘Organic Law of Korean language’ proclaims amendments that include the establishment of ‘the King Sejong Foundation’, which can spread King Sejong’s the best invention, ‘Hangeul’. The Cabinet members agree on the importance of establishing a main foundation to expand and support ‘the King Sejong Institute’ worldwide. The King Sejong Foundation will support a professional and systematic Korean education as a Korean education management organization.

King Sejong Institute, Colombo, Sri Lanka (photo courtesy of MCST)

It is a trend that leading countries promote the institutes of their mother tongue as part of their strategy of national development and expansion of their language. Most notably, ‘the Confucius Institute’ of China, operates more than 800 large and small institutes, in more than 100 nations. Also, China has built up ‘the Confucius Institute Supervision Center’ as a systematic management system. Korea also plans to build the national brand power of ‘the King Sejong Institute’ as a Korean education institution, and arrange a systematic support system to learn Korean everywhere in the world through ‘the King Sejong Foundation.’

According to this revision, ‘the King Sejong Institute Policy Council’ also operates to politically control Korean education, which is managed by each department, and discuss cooperation. It tries to accelerate the spread of Korean through the political cooperation system and establishment of the main organization. ‘The King Sejong Foundation’ officially starts in October during Korean Week. For more information, please visit the official website at: www.sejonghakdang.org.

By An Myungok
Korea.net Staff Writer