JEDDAH: Korean music and TV, better known as K-pop and K-drama, have relished a momentous rise in popularity all over the world.
As Korean soap operas and pop groups have captivated audiences, Korean has become an appealing language to learn. Now, Saudis are joining the growing crowd of enthusiasts.
There are a variety of reasons why Saudis want to learn Korean: To enjoy watching their favorite shows in the original language, to visit and experience the culture of Korea first-hand, or even to move to South Korea.
“Most of my students loved K-pop and Korean dramas, and they wanted to expand their knowledge by learning the language,” Myung Hee Park from the Korean International School in Jeddah told Arab News.
“Sometimes they learned the language because they wanted to understand the shows without having to read the English subtitles.”
People from all over Saudi Arabia are traveling to Korea to attend concerts and watch their favorite artists perform.
“Lots of the people who come to learn from me have an experience of visiting Korea and enjoying concerts by artists such as BTS, Monsta X or SM Town,” Myung said.
Saudi appreciation of Korea does not stop at entertainment. “Some of my students wanted to study at Korean universities too,” Myung said.
Last November, 51 people took part in the first Ambassador’s Cup Korean Speech competition, held at the official residence of the South Korean ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Jo Byung-wook. The competition was organized to promote the country’s culture, language and heritage.
“The growing interest in learning the Korean language in Saudi Arabia shows the strength of our bilateral relations,” said the ambassador.
“Korean is the 20th most spoken language in the world, and is gaining popularity as the second foreign language across Asia, the US and even the Middle East.”
Myung said: “There are many (cultural) similarities between the two countries, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Saudis have fallen in love with Korean culture so easily.”
She said Prince Sultan Al-Faisal Al-Saud “is an amazing student. Even when he comes back from long business trips, he resumes his lessons the very next day. I can see joy in the eyes of the people I’m teaching, and it makes my profession very rewarding.”
English teacher Amira Mohammad Al-Khateeb, who has been learning Korean, said: “It’s one of the languages that I’ve always wanted to learn. I’ve been watching Korean dramas for years, and at some point I sat myself down and said, ‘Amira you must learn the language now.’ I was delighted to find the school in Jeddah.”
She added: “After I learn the language, I intend to go to Korea and become a teacher there. I don’t just want to speak Korean for fun, I want to become a part of Korean culture.”