Fans of K-pop stars rush to Korean courses
Asian fans of K-pop music – mostly from Japan, China and Southeast Asian countries – are starting to learn Korean to better understand their favorite stars.
In Thailand for example, 130 secondary schools have adopted Korean as a second foreign language so far this year, according to the Korean Education Center there. In 2006, not a single Thai school had done so.
Additionally, an increasing number of people in Western countries are apparently studying Korean of late after K-pop stars, including seven-member boy band BTS, began to gain global prominence.
To meet the rising demand, the language learning website Duolingo opened a Korean course in 2017 and now around 3.34 million people have signed up to learn the language, outpacing the 3.22 million studying Chinese.
Now, Korean is the seventh-most popular language on the site, which offers more than 80 different courses in around 25 languages to its 30 million registered users.
“The Chinese economy is much bigger than that of Korea. The two are not in the same league. But still more people want to learn Korean, not Chinese, which means that the trend is not about economy but about something else,” a Seoul analyst said.
“The fervor to learn Korean can be attributable to the K-pop craze across the world. I think fans of K-pop stars are rushing to the Korean courses. I assume fans of BTS and other Korean superstars just want to learn Korean to understand the lyrics of their hit songs,” he added.
Of note is that the official site of BTS fans called ARMY, short for Adorable Representative Master of ceremonies for Youth, recommends some material for learning Korean.
“Fan translators translate nearly everything, from tweets to lyrics to interviews. BigHit usually translates most music videos and Vlive content is usually translated within a few days of it being posted,” it noted.
“In summary, it is not required that you learn Korean to appreciate BTS. Many ARMYs still decide to learn Korean in order to learn more about Korean culture and easily understand it.”
BigHit Entertainment is the agency, which formed BTS in 2013.