The transformative power of English: how it has permeated Korean culture

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Author: Seline Suriel Nuñez

The English language has acquired a central position in the lives of South Koreans, becoming an essential skill, and its value continues to increase due to the growing importance it has in the current globalized world. Throughout this analysis, you will explore the significant impact that English has had in South Korea, examining how its influence has expanded in the country in recent years, from the educational field to the world of work and culture.

Picture taken from: Google

Importance of English in South Korea:

English has acquired great importance in South Korea for several reasons. First of all, globalization and the rise of international trade have driven the need for effective communication in English to establish trade relations and collaborations with other nations. In addition, South Korea has experienced rapid economic and technological development, which has increased its presence on the world stage and required its citizens to master the language to compete in the global market.

Similarly, English has also gained relevance in the educational field, as many South Korean students look for opportunities to study at foreign universities, especially in English-speaking countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. These nations have become attractive destinations for young Koreans who want to acquire an education of excellence and experience a new culture, which has driven a greater demand for English competence to achieve this academic goal.

Picture taken from: Google

Growth of English in South Korea:

In recent years, South Korea has experienced a significant increase in the learning and teaching of English. Therefore, the South Korean government has actively promoted this language as an essential skill for global competitiveness and has implemented various measures and programs to improve language teaching. An example of these are:

English immersion programs: the government has established immersion programs for students and professionals who seek to improve their English skills through immersion in environments where this language is spoken.

Hiring native English teachers: the government has sought to increase the number of native English teachers in schools, to improve the pronunciation and oral comprehension of students.

English certifications: English certification programs, such as TOEFL or IELTS, have been promoted to measure and recognize the level of language proficiency of students and professionals. These certifications are one of the best known globally when it comes to validating your knowledge of the language.

Establishment of Language Centers: Language Centers have been created in different cities such as Seoul, Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon, and Ulsan, among others, to provide resources and additional support to those who wish to improve their English skills.

Picture taken from: Google

In this way, schools have incorporated English into their curricula for the population from an early age, which has led to greater exposure to the language since childhood. In addition, exchange programs have been created with foreign schools to improve oral fluency and language comprehension, but that’s not all, since within South Korea, there are several places where students like to meet to socialize and study. For example, cafes have become popular among university students as meeting places to enjoy drinks and snacks while studying or talking with friends. There are also libraries and study rooms in universities and other educational institutions, which offer a quiet environment conducive to learning and concentration.

Picture taken from: Google

In the workplace, many companies in South Korea value employees who are proficient in English, especially in industries related to technology, science, and international trade. This has led to greater motivation to improve English skills in the workplace, as well as a growing demand for language training courses and programs.

Its influence at the national and international level:

The influence of English in South Korea has been reflected in multiple aspects of everyday life. On the one hand, the presence of international brands and foreign companies in the country has led to greater exposure to the language. But, on the other hand, this language has become an integral part of popular culture, with many songs, television programs, and foreign movies that are consumed and translated into Korean for the general public. Likewise, many songs by local artists include fragments of lyrics in English or are titled in this language. In addition, some K-pop groups have gained popularity internationally by releasing English versions of their songs, which has allowed them to reach audiences around the world. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that the mixture of English and Korean in the lyrics, not only makes the songs more accessible globally but also reflects the exposure of the South Korean public to the English language in their daily lives.

Picture taken from: Google

At the international level, South Korea has strengthened its position as an influential global player, and  proficiency in English has been a crucial factor in its participation in international forums, trade agreements, and scientific and technological collaborations with other nations. Being part of international organizations and summits, such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and the World Health Organization, among others, the government and South Korean representatives must effectively communicate with delegations around the world. In addition, English, as the lingua franca of diplomacy and business, allows South Korea to play an active role on these platforms, expressing its perspectives, interests, and policies clearly and directly.

In conclusion, we can affirm that South Korea has shown that English is not just a language, but a powerful catalyst for change and transformation. From its growing influence on popular culture to its prominence in international forums, the mastery of this language has led this country to open up to the world and reach new borders.

As a common thread that connects millennial traditions with the most avant-garde innovation, English has woven a network of opportunities for economic progress, scientific collaboration, and cultural understanding. Thus, on a journey towards excellence and global recognition, South Korea has shown that the transformative power of English lies not only in words but in the tangible impact it has had on all aspects of everyday life.

Reader: Marisol Montiel Cerón

Reviewed by: Luisa Quintero

References:

(June 22, 2023) The importance of English education in South Korea: an essential skill for young people

https://www.todocoreadelsur.com/la-educacion-en-ingles-en-corea-del-sur-su-importancia-y-como-se-ha-convertido-en-una-habilidad-esencial-para-los-jovenes/

(October 31, 2022) Teaching English in South Korea 2023: what you need to know

https://kiiky.com/es/enseñando-ingles-en-corea-del-sur/

(February 11, 2022) ‘Parasites’, ‘The squid game’, BTS: why Korean culture conquers the world

https://elpais.com/babelia/2022-02-12/la-excepcion-cultural-coreana.html

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