Language magazine finds success in Japan

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Language magazine finds success in Japan

Bae Jeong-ryol had a vision: A Japanese magazine for students of the Korean language.
“When the magazine was launched, everyone doubted how long it could keep going,” said Mr. Bae, the editor of the Korean Language Journal. ?“No one imagined that the magazine would be so popular it would sell 50,000 copies a month.”
A third-generation Korean American, Mr. Bae submitted a business plan to Aruku, which specializes in publishing language-learning material. The executives were skeptical about Mr. Bae's proposal, but he was persistent.
“I told them that the first volume could be the last volume, but we should try it at least once,” he said.
The Korean Language Journal got off to a rocky start in June 2002, before the opening of the Korea-Japan World Cup. ?The “Korean wave,” the term for the popularity of Korean culture around Asia, had only recently hit Japan, but it arrived right before a boom in the number of Korean language students, and the magazine's circulation shot up.
The Korean Language Journal is chock-full of tips tailored to Japanese students. ?“Five-day pronunciation tips” in the April volume, for example, explained in detail how to pronounce Korean words, even adding illustrations of the proper position of the tongue and shape of the mouth. ?The journal explained the number seven should be pronounced “chil,” not “chi-ru,” the kind of point a Japanese textbook usually omits. ?Other articles list expressions usually used in television dramas and Korean pop songs.
After working as a high school English teacher, Mr. Bae took a job with Aruku, mainly writing books for students of English. ?These days, however, he focuses on publishing the Korean Language Journal with the help of four Japanese editors and one Korean-Japanese.
“Most people learn foreign languages such as English for work-related reasons, but learning Korean is different. ?Many people begin to learn Korean for personal reasons, such as desire to speak to Korean friends in Korean or interest in Korean culture after visiting Korea,” Mr. Bae said.
“There is a perception that Korean culture fans in Japan are mid-aged housewives who love Korean dramas, but the Korean Language Journal has more young readers, such as students and company employees,” he added.

by Yeh Young-june
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