The Test of Proficiency in Korean or TOPIK will include a speaking test starting from 2015 as part of efforts to promote the language around the world. An increasing number of foreigners and overseas Koreans take the test, not least because of the popularity of Korean music and TV soaps.
The Education Ministry on Sunday said the test will be expanded on a trial basis from the current four sections of grammar and vocabulary, writing, listening and reading to cover speaking as well to strengthen applicants’ ability to communicate in the language.
A ministry official said there have been consistent calls for the inclusion of a speaking test, but the lack of proper evaluation tools led to delays. The National Institute for International Education, which manages the test, will now develop basic questions for the speaking section, he added.
Introduced in 1997, the test drew a mere 2,274 people from four countries in its first year. But that had snowballed to 149,650 people from 39 countries last year.
Most of the applicants want to study or work in Korea.
"Many of successful test takers have ended up with difficulties talking to people here," the official said. "This stricter assessment aims to encourage foreigners who come to Korea either for study or work purposes to use the language more freely in everyday life."