[Letters] Korean language boom along the Silk Road

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[Letters] Korean language boom along the Silk Road

The Silk Road, the trade route from China to Central Asia, is the veil of the Eurasian Continent, connecting Asia, Europe and Africa. Uzbekistan was at the center of the Silk Road, and the “Sungkyun Korean Language Writing Contest” was held in Tashkent recently. A surprising number of students participated from Uzbekistan and nearby Kazakhstan, and they displayed excellent fluency in Korean language.

Hallyu, or the Korean Wave, is penetrating into the language and lifestyle, beyond dramas, movies and K-pop. Concerts and performances have been great successes in New York, Paris and London, and Korean dramas and films are enjoyed all over the world. A blue-eyed girl wears a T-shirt with Korean type and sings to the music of Korean pop idols. A Korean school in Russia is so popular that applicants are waitlisted.

However, along with the positive responses, concerned voices are growing as well. The Korean Wave mainly driven by pop stars leaves an image that Korea is a country lacking cultural content. Also, anti-Korean sentiment is growing in some countries. CNN-Go columnist Maxwell Coll recognizes the popularity of the Korean Wave but claims that the exclusionist cultural policy and unilateral attitude is killing the Korean Wave. The Cia-Cia tribe in Indonesia had adopted Hangul as its writing system but has recently given up, illustrating the danger the Wave is exposed to.

French culture critic Guy Sorman claims that soft power such as cultural content and brand values will dominate the global market. We need to pay attention to the fact that Korean language will contribute to the improvement of the national image and brand as much as automobile and semiconductor industries. Instead of making a one-time approach, we need to pursue two-way communications and educational and cultural harmony to nurture Korean language.

Hallyu is a product of Korean culture and dynamics, and it should be propelled by education and understanding of Korean language and writings. China’s education ministry has installed over 500 Confucius Institutes around the world to propagate Chinese language through exchanges with colleges and universities. Sejong Academy, the overseas education institute sponsored by the Korean government, needs to be backed up by Korean universities by letting the schools plan and sponsor Korean education programs abroad. The change of ideas will bring the globalization of Hangul.

Kim Jun-young, president of Sungkyunkwan University

*Letters and commentaries for publication should be addressed “Letters to the Editor.” E-mailed letters should be sent to eopinion@joongang.co.kr.
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