Seoul to open 14 new Sejong Institutes
By Do Je-hae
As part of efforts to promote Korean culture, the government will build 14 additional language institutes in the second half of this year, according to the culture ministry Monday.
"To respond to the rising demand in Korean language education overseas, we will set up 14 additional King Sejong Institutes, bringing up the total number of these institutes to 90," Bang Seon-gyu, director-general at the ministry said during a press conference in Seoul. "Ultimately, we will run 200 institutes worldwide to spread 'hangeul.'"
Sejong was the fourth king of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) credited with the creation of the Korean alphabet. The King Sejong Institute program was first started in 2007 with 12 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.
To enhance the quality of the language education, the ministry will send 20 licensed Korean language teachers to Sejong Institutes in 11 countries, including Mongolia, Vietnam and Turkey. "It would mark the first dispatch of licensed Korean language teachers to foreign countries. They will start teaching in September," the official said.
The 14 locations newly designated to house King Sejong Institutes include Santiago, Chile; Venice, Italy; Auckland, New Zealand; Ulan Bator, Mongolia and Bogota, Colombia, among others.
The King Sejong Institute Foundation will be established on Oct. 9, to mark the Hangeul Day. It will be in charge of developing the curriculum and textbooks as well as training teachers.
The popularity of Korean pop music known as "K-pop," and TV dramas in foreign countries has led to rising demand for learning the Korean language. In 2006, around 34,000 took the TOPIK (Test Of Proficiency In Korean). The number had risen to 450,000 last year.