Overseas education, culture centers soon to be merged
By Na Jeong-ju
The government plans to combine educational institutes for ethnic Koreans abroad and overseas culture centers for foreigners in an effort to provide better services to those who are eager to learn the Korean language and culture.
The measure reflects growing interest among foreigners in these as Korean dramas, pop songs and movies are gaining popularity overseas.
According to the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the planned merger was approved at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday. The ministry will submit a revision bill on the operation of the overseas culture centers to the National Assembly this month.
As of July, there are 38 educational institutes for ethnic Koreans in 16 countries and 24 culture centers in 20 countries. The educational institutes will be absorbed into the culture centers, the ministry said.
“The merger is aimed at boosting efficiency in providing language education to ethnic Koreans and foreigners and implementing cultural exchange programs,” a ministry official said. “That’s necessary because the country’s international presence is expanding and the number of foreigners who want to learn Korean language and customs has been growing rapidly.”
The number of foreign elementary and secondary schools which have set up Korean language courses increased to 695 in 2011 from 522 in 2009.
Last year, about 121,500 people from 47 countries took the Test of Proficiency in Korean, administered by the Korean government, compared to 50,133 from 28 countries in 2007 and 85,000 from 35 countries in 2009. The exam has become a must for foreigners who want to study and work in Korea.
Ministry officials said the merger of educational institutes and culture centers will make it possible for foreigners to learn Korean language, history and culture at the same place.
“The merged entities will provide one-stop services to all those who want to learn about Korea. There will be more administrative and financial support for them,” the official said.
The government also plans to increase the number of Korean culture centers abroad in light of the growing popularity of Korea’s pop culture. This year, culture centers were newly established in Hungary, Mexico, India, Thailand, Belgium, Brazil and Egypt.