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Korea Times' Korean Language Speaking Contest ignites interest in keen learners

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A large statue of King Sejong (1397-1450), the early Joseon Kingdom (1392–1910) ruler who was behind the creation of Hangeul (the Korean alphabet), is seen in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. Yonhap

A large statue of King Sejong (1397-1450), the early Joseon Kingdom (1392–1910) ruler who was behind the creation of Hangeul (the Korean alphabet), is seen in Gwanghwamun, central Seoul. Yonhap

By Pyo Kyung-min

The global surge in interest in the Korean language is undeniable. As such, there has been plenty of attention on The Korea Times' inaugural Korean Language Speaking Contest.

Driven by the growing influence of "hallyu," or the Korean wave, across the globe, there is a notable uptick in individuals seeking to learn Korean. Duolingo, a language-learning app boasting 500 million users worldwide, recently listed Korean as its seventh-most studied language.

Moreover, the King Sejong Institute, a Korean language education institution overseen by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST), has experienced notable growth in recent years, expanding from 13 locations across three countries in 2007 to 244 locations in 84 countries in 2023.

Riding on this wave of interest, The Korea Times, which marks its 74th anniversary this year, is hosting the 2024 Korean Language Speaking Contest with the aim to cultivate interest in both Korean culture and language among people around the world and play its part in enhancing Korea's global influence.

The contest is sponsored by the Ministry of Education, MCST and the Cyber University of Korea.

With the application deadline approaching in just 20 days, the contest's website is bustling with eager applicants, with nearly 200 already having completed their entries. These applicants have shared stories on either "A special episode that made you fall in love with Korea(n)" or "A unique aspect of Korean culture that you love."

Students studying Korean, from countries all around the globe — such as Taiwan, Vietnam, Myanmar, Uzbekistan, Spain, Brazil and Nigeria — have participated in the event to share their own unique and intriguing stories.

In March, a Korean language instructor from the Korean Department at Egypt's Aswan University promoted The Korea Times' contest at the institution and interest was overwhelming. As a lot of students at the insitution wanted to participate, the instructors took it upon themselves to find additional private tutors, to help them prepare for the competition. The teacher emphasized the competition as a great opportunity for students to not only improve their Korean language proficiency but also to gain a deeper insight into Korean culture.

Encouraging more participants to join, well-known foreign personalities in Korea — including American TV personality Tyler Rasch, Belgian TV personality and entrepreneur Julian Quintart, Cameroonian French "pansori" (traditional Korean narrative music) singer Laure Mafo, and British actor and TV personality Eva Popiel — have lent their voices to The Korea Times' official social media channels. Indian entrepreneur and TV personality Nidhi Agrawal will join the lineup next week.

Comments on the videos featuring these figures range from inquiries about application procedures to words of encouragement from those who have already applied, creating a heartwarming atmosphere.

"I've applied! Good luck to all the other participants," one user wrote.

The deadline for applications is April 28, and the announcement of the winners is scheduled for May 14. Winners will be awarded prize money ranging from 300,000 won to 2 million won.

For more information, visit the awards' website at

Pyo Kyung-min


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