The number of foreigners and overseas Koreans taking the Korean language proficiency test is rising rapidly. Some 93,173 people from 25 countries around the world have applied for the 16th Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) which will be given on Saturday and Sunday.
The total combined number of applicants for this year's tests stands at about 180,000, including 86,280 applicants during the first half of this year, up 26 percent from 142,804 last year, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said Thursday. The number of applicants in 1997, the year when it was launched, was a mere 2,274.
The test has two versions -- "business" for jobseekers and "standard" for general test takers.
The largest proportion of applicants for the upcoming test comes from China with some 67,172. Of those, 46,000 are Korean Chinese who are taking the business test to find jobs in Korea. Still, the number of Chinese applicants who are not of Korean descent exceeds 21,000.
Next are candidates from elsewhere in Asia such as Japan (5,932), Taiwan (1,535), Thailand (911), and Uzbekistan (633). They are followed by Australians (537), Russians (534), Brazilians (298), Argentinians (205), and Indians (102). Twenty-two college students majoring in Korean from Belarus will take the test this year for the first time.
Many Japanese and Southeast Asian applicants are taking the test because of their keen interest in Korean culture, the ministry said.