Young Koreans Lose Interest in Chinese Studies

      January 19, 2022 08:43

      A growing number of younger Koreans view China negatively as it becomes an assertive regional bully and exchanges between the two sides decline, although the world's most populous country is Korea's largest trade partner.

      The sentiments are reflected in a straw poll the Chosun Ilbo conducted among 30 Seoul National University politics students and graduates. About 20 or two-thirds said they dislike China, while the rest said the country was "so-so" and none of them ticked they "favor" it. Also, 29 out of the 30 said they feel anti-China sentiment increasing among Koreans.

      Chinese studies courses here are dwindling. There were just 14 graduate school students at SNU studying Chinese language and literature last year, halving since from 32 in 2017. In comparison, the number studying French language and literature remained at around nine to 12 over the same period, and for German language and literature it declined only from 18 to 14.

      The sentiment seems to be shared among undergraduates. The number of students taking the beginner's Mandarin class dropped sharply at undergraduate school, according to an SNU official.

      That trend is also seen in other surveys. A Hankook Research survey showed the interest in China among Koreans in their 20s halved from 34.2 points in October 2018 to 17.8 points last year. Over the same period, the level of interest in China among those in their 40s also fell from 42.5 to 27.2 points and dropped from 39.1 to 30.7 points 50-somethings.

      Lee Dong-han at Hankook Research said, "Interest in China has declined steadily due to a number of issues and the younger generation are particularly sensitive. In particular they seem to be more critical of the current administration's pro-China stance." 

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