The 14 students from UCLA and UHM currently enrolled in the 2007-2008 academic year at Korea University, Korean Flagship Overseas Program, Monday.
/ Courtesy of Jay E. Kim
By Jay E. Kim
With English being the most spoken language in the world, it is interesting that there is an increasing number of foreigners learning Korean.
Whether it is because of Korea's increasing influence in international politics and trade, the North Korean missile crisis or the popularization of Korean culture, learning Korean has grown in importance and scope.
In response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. government saw the need for government workers to be fluent in strategic languages from regions around the world that were important to its interests. As a result, Korean was categorized as a critical needs language alongside Arabic, Chinese and Russian.
To cultivate global professionals, especially Korean specialists, the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense launched the Korean Flagship Language Initiative Program in 2003.
The two-year program is supported by the U.S. government in conjunction with the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM), the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Korea University (KU) in Seoul.
After completing a one-year intensive program at either UHM or UCLA, students spend a year studying in the Korean Flagship Overseas Program (KFOP) at KU to put their language training to use in academic and professional settings. The four-year-old program currently has 14 students for the 2007-2008 school year.
The purpose of the program is to equip students from the U.S. with a fluent command of Korean, and to help them pursue government careers that will utilize their language training.
To achieve these goals, KU offers KFOP students university courses, the Media Korean course _ a specialized Korean course for advanced levels _ individualized professional internships and native-Korean tutors, while teaching them about living in Korean society.
``It's a program that aims to improve Korea-U.S. relations by fostering future experts in diverse fields with a high proficiency in Korean, while teaching them about Korean culture and etiquette at the same time,'' said Chang Mi-kyung, the KFOP coordinator.
With tens of thousands of Koreans studying abroad, it is encouraging to see more foreigners taking an interest in Korea. According to the Korean Immigration Service, there are over one million foreigners residing in Korea, and approximately 33,000 foreign students. With this continuing trend, the number of foreigners learning Korean is expected to increase to 50,000 by 2010.