Int’l Korean speech contests see a jump in numbers

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Int’l Korean speech contests see a jump in numbers

As Psy trots to international recognition, foreign fans of the popular song “Gangnam Style,” which is now ranked No. 2 on Billboard, might want to know what he’s talking about when he raps in Korean.

According to The Korea Foundation, an independent organization affiliated with Seoul’s Foreign Ministry, there was a spike in the number of foreigners competing in Korean-language speech contests in seven overseas countries this month.

The annual speech contest - organized by Korea’s respective embassies in Belgium, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mongolia, Azerbaijan and Belarus - aims to motivate people from other countries to learn Korean and by doing so spread Korean culture worldwide.

Last year, the contest was held in four countries. This year Belgium, Hungary and Azerbaijan have been added to the list. A total of 1,700 foreigners participated last year but the foundation expects the number to go up to at least 2,000 participants this month.

The contest is being organized by respective embassies throughout this month to celebrate the birthday of hangul, the 24-character Korean alphabet, which was invented by King Sejong and implemented in 1446.

Hangul Day was yesterday.

“This year’s number of participants is expected to increase further based on the widespread popularity of the Korean culture, including Psy and other K-pop,” the foundation said.

In addition to the Korean language speech contest, the Korean embassies in India and Mongolia will hold a Korean singing contest and will display Korean artworks, including calligraphy.

“We initially had planned to run three Korean language classes from February but with more applicants, we started with nine classes,” said Kwon Young-sup from the Korean embassy in Budapest, Hungary. “As of October, there are 107 students learning the language in 14 different classes.”

Kim Woo-sang, the foundation chief, also said, “With a growing interest in Korea not only in Asia but also in the United States and Europe, we plan to provide more support so that there will be more countries holding Korean language speech contests.”

By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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