Hong Kong adds Korean to university exams

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Hong Kong will include Korean in the foreign language category of the city’s university entrance exam from 2025 amid growing interest from learners, officials said.

“Since young people’s interest in the Korean language has increased, the Korean language exam has been specially added to meet the needs of students,” Wei Xiang-dong, secretary-general of the Authority for Foreign Affairs, told local media. Hong Kong examinations and assessment.

The foreign languages ​​currently offered for university entrance exams in the city are French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Hindi and Urdu. The latter two will be discontinued in 2025.

Some commentators have suggested that Korea’s soft power may be responsible for its language’s growing appeal.

“We have seen that there has been an interest in the Korean language among Hong Kong students due to exposure to Korean culture,” said Lee Young-ho, director of the Korean Cultural Center in Hong Kong. South China Morning Post.

But Jun Yoo, a professor in the Department of Korean Language and Literature at Yonsei University, who spoke with Times Higher Educationwas skeptical that the popularity of K-pop and Korean films fully explained the growing popularity of Korean studies.

“We could perhaps discuss the impact of South Korean soft culture, but…we must take into account…the active role that the South Korean government plays and will play in increasing the visibility of the language Korea through the King Sejong Institute,” he said. .

Named after the inventor of the Korean alphabet, the King Sejong Institute was established by the South Korean government in 2007 to promote Korean language and culture. It now includes 234 branches in 82 countries.

Seoul has earmarked millions of dollars to establish more institutes each year, creating a pool of Korean learners, Prof. Yoo noted.

“Parents start sending their children to such academies when they are in primary or middle school, like they do in Korea with English,” he said.

But he didn’t discount the fact that some learners might just go with the flow by learning Korean. The Korean Language Proficiency Test (Topik) scoring system was “pretty simple”, making it a “good bet” for students and parents, he said.

Learning Korean can also affect the memory strength of Hong Kong students. Professor Yoo compared Hong Kongers’ preference for his mother tongue to his Korean students’ preference for Vietnamese and Arabic in college entrance exams.

“When asked why Arabic, they said it was easier to learn because you just have to memorize it, not how to speak it. [but] Arabic script. Same for Vietnamese. Maybe Hong Kong kids have an easier time learning Korean,” he suggested.

pola.lem@timeshighereducation.com

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