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The Korean Culture

b2ap3_thumbnail_BLOG_49.jpgBackground and status

Korean, known in the language itself as Kugo, is the language of the Korean Peninsula in northeast Asia. In the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) there are about 20 million speakers and in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) there are in the region of 42 million speakers. Korean is also spoken by almost 2 million people in China, mainly in provinces bordering North Korea. Other communities are found in Singapore, Thailand, Guam, and Paraguay. The number of speakers total approximately 72 million – thus Korean has more speakers than all other language isolates combined.

In the 15th century, a national writing system called hangul was commissioned by Sejong the Great, but it only came into widespread use in the 20th century. Today it’s the official script of both South Korea and North Korea, and co-official in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China's Jilin Province. It is simple yet systematic and comprehensive, and is considered one of the most scientific writing systems in the world. Hangul is easy to learn and write, which has greatly contributed to Korea's high literacy rate and advanced publication industry.

Growth and usage

Today, much of the news in South Korea is delivered through electronic means and the country is at the leading edge of the digital revolution and a trailblazer for high-speed and wireless internet services. Some 70% of South Korean households have broadband internet access, and the online media marketplace is growing rapidly. Popular Korean news web sites register as many as 15 million visits per day.

Also, Korea is an industrial nation standing tall on the world stage. Its semiconductor, automobile, shipbuilding, steel making, and IT industries are on the leading edge in global markets. More recently, Korean dramas, movies, and music are attracting many audiences in Asian countries and beyond, creating what is being called the "Korean Wave". Korea's new standing in the international community was highlighted in 2010 with the nation becoming the first Asian country to chair the G20 and host the G20 Seoul Summit.

It’s because of this reason that Korean has been listed as a critical language by the American State Department because of their strategic business and security interests in the Korean-speaking world, as well as a heritage language due to the number of American citizens of Korean heritage. South Korea is one of the USA’s largest East Asian trading partners. In 2007 the United States exported $34,644.8million to South Korea, an amount on par with some of their English-speaking trade partners. In 2007 the United States imported $47,562.3 million in goods from South Korea, which is an increase of 475% since 1985.

Interestingly, even student enrollment in Arabic, Korean and Chinese classes is showing the fastest growth among foreign language courses at U.S. universities.

The Language Inc. Team

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