April 19, 2016 12:32
Learning Korean is all the rage in many countries where K-pop and Korean soaps have captured hearts and minds. A record 72,295 applicants took the 46th Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK), which was administered at 164 locations in 45 countries last Saturday.
The TOPIK took place on every continent, from Argentina to South Africa.
The first TOPIK in 1997 drew only 2,692 applicants in four countries -- Korea, Japan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Since then the number of test takers has multiplied 27 times.
Another round of the test will be administered in straggler countries Bolivia, Jamaica and Poland in the second half of this year.
Run by the Education Ministry and the National Institute for International Education, the TOPIK evaluates the language proficiency of non-native speakers.
Initially most of the applicants were foreigners getting married to Koreans and the children of overseas Koreans. But numbers have soared since Korean soap operas and K-pop became an international craze in the mid-2000s.
"If this trend continues, the number of test takers will exceed 300,000 this year," a ministry official said.
Korean is taught as a second foreign language in 1,224 primary and secondary schools in 28 countries. Some 1,143 colleges and universities abroad teach Korean language courses.
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