Do You Have Avatar Blues?
Korea Times Correspondent
ISTANBUL ― Coshkun Akin, 32, is working at a Korean company in Istanbul. He had to fly to Ankara, the capital of Turkey, in order to take the Korean language proficiency test last weekend.
It is because the test organizer, the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE) runs the test in Ankara and Kaiseri but not in Istanbul, the largest city of the country with a population of some 12 million.
``More and more Turkish people here are trying to learn Korean, so it would be better if I could take the test here,'' Akin told The Korea Times. He learned Korean for six months in order to communicate with his Korean boss and applied for the exam to measure his Korean skills.
With growing demand for the test in Istanbul, which bridges Asia and Europe, KICE is considering setting up a venue in the city.
Jo Yong-gi, a research fellow of KICE said, during a meeting with the Korean consul staff in Istanbul, that if demand (for the TOPIK test) is significant, there would be no problem to add the city to the list of test venues.
According to the consul there, 2,500-3,000 Koreans are living in Istanbul and about 50 Korean companies have established branches in and around the city. Hyundai Motor has about 60 Turkish students under its internship program.
Hong Jong-kyoung, consular general, said more Turkish want to learn the Korean language in accordance with the development of the relationship between the two countries, but Korean education programs are in short supply in the city.
``Compared to Japan, we don't invest much on introducing Korean language and culture to people here,'' he said.
He also stressed the need to set up Korean studies courses at the universities in the biggest city reasoning that Ankara and Kaiseri offered Korean language courses 10 years ago.
``Sabanci University (a private institution in Istanbul) is now considering the establishment of a Korean department with an admission quota of more than 15 students,'' he said.
Although, Korea doesn't have a state-funded culture center, there is a privately run ``Turkey Korea Culture Exchange Association.''
The Turkish culture ministry along with veterans who participated in the Korean War helped to set up the organization in 2002, after South Korea co-hosted the World Cup.
The center runs 13-week Korean language courses at beginner and intermediate levels on weekends and students pay about $300.
There are 12 students in the beginner class and seven in the intermediate course. The program started in 2003 and 76 people have completed it so far.
Park Young-durk, chairman of the center, said ``office workers and those who have married Koreans are mainly the people enrolled in the program. We also show Korean movies biweekly and invite Turkish veterans every Thursday."
``We hope the Korean government will also help us to introduce our language and culture to the people here,'' he said.
Jo Min-young is a student at Seo Woon Middle School in Seoul.