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Gaga: Rest in Peace (b.2002 - d.2010)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Study in Korea (Part-3 / Korean Language Programs)

K-Pop or K-culture are the popular words one gets to see while searching for media, music, films, dramas and culture - related to Korea. With the Korean wave these are considered as the drivers of globalizing Korea. A very interesting part is the fact that in many countries, where Korean wave created tsunamis, people had no clue about the language whose programs or music they loved and could relate to..most of the time dramas were subtitled or dubbed. Countries like Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kenya, Azerbaijan, Denmark, France, Germany, Thailand, Malaysia to Canada and the US - there is a growing interest in Korean media and hence, to know Korea which further developed into a desire to learn Korean language called "Hangul".

Many universities are offering Korean language programs (KLP)  for foreigners. Mainly two types of program are popular: KLPs focusing on conversation and the ones' used for academic reasons. Sogang university is popular with conversational programs and Yonsei university in academics. Many universities have a melange of two and some have interestingly further divided their programs for student coming from specific regions e.g. classes for Japanese and Chinese students (due to similarities with Korean, Hanja or classical Chinese characters) are separate from those coming from the rest of the world, however, the choice to choose which program to join is entirely left to the applicant.
Some of the popular KLPs in Seoul are at the following universities:
  1. Yonsei
  2. Sogang
  3. Seoul National University
  4. Kyunghee University
  5. Ehwa Women's University
  6. Sookmyung Women's University
Basically, there is no scholarship to learn Korean unless you are in a KLP of your home country and only then one is eligible to apply. MoU's between governments also bring language scholarships holders to Korea. NGOs and companies also send their candidates to study Korean language. In case you are a Korean Studies major or are planning to join one...at some stage you may apply for such a scholarship in Korea. Once you are in Korea - there is no scholarship to study Korean language at all...but do not get disheartened, while in Korea - you will have countless opportunities to learn and practice Korean language. Seoul Global Center and Korea foundation offers free classes of Korean language to the foreign residents (both children and adults) of Korea on regular basis in different levels after taking a placement test. Many universities, at times, offer classes for free for Korean language and one of them was Seoul City University. Social Network groups and NGOs also offer Korean language classes....hence, there are countless opportunities to learn Korean.

Personally, I have noticed that some of my friends who studied Korean at universities in cities outside Gyeonggi and Seoul area - learn Korean fast in lesser time because they could NOT find many people who would speak with them in English which is often the case in Seoul. If you try Korean outside the class - most natives reply back in English than in Hangul (Korean)...which could be very frustrating at times.

I studied Korean at Kyunghee and Sogang universities and my advice is once you start to learn Korean...don't quit in the middle but instead, try to finish at least 4 levels in a stretch. Furthermore, unless somebody has taken TOPIK (Test of Proficiency in Korean) - it hard to understand what level are you actually in. An intermediate level of one university with that of the other does NOT mean the same thing hence, when you learn Korean language my advice is : don't forget to take TOPIK step by step: that will bring you to the general standard of Korean language proficiency that the Ministry of Education of Korea requires...hope this will help!!!


If I had an option of  "undo" in real life then I would have chosen this:

1- Study Korean in cities other than Seoul and Gyeonggi province.
2- I had taken TOPIK exam after passing each level.
3- I would have told people that : 영어 못해요! (I don't know English).
4- I had hanged out with Koreans rather than foreigners.

Last but not the least, knowing Korean language has surely made life much richer in many ways so try to stay positive ;-) .


  1. hi sarah, may I ask if you prefer kyunghee or sogang university style of teaching? which is better? I did level 1 in sogang and am thinking to do level 2 and 3 in kyunghee due to logistics of my living arrangement.

  2. Hi Babyaltezza: Thanks for asking about my opinion on this issue.
    As you mentioned that logistics weigh heavy on the decision of selecting a school. I agree with you that commuting is time consuming at times.
    Sogang is better reputated in terms of teaching methodology and technique however I think that you can always switch to the other school so you can give Kyunghee a try. It is likely that it turns out good. Kyunghee language program is OK as well, so do NOT worry and if you are NOT satisfied you have a choice to change, right!!!
    Take Kyunghee at this point and then later review and compare.
    Wish you the best!

  3. hi sarah i'm cinz, may i ask you if u need to choose which one is better sogang or kyunghee for a new student to learn korea language? and is there don't have a dormitory for staying 1 person inside the room?? and the fee for living and studying which one is more cheaper? sogang or kyunghee?..thx for help...

  4. @cinz: Hi there.
    If I have to choose then my choice is sogang to learn Korean language. You will end up learning/studying a lot at the expense of stressing out a lot. Cost of studying is more or less the same BUT cost of living depends on your personal lifestyle...there are cheap options as well.
    There is a single room accomodation at the dorms... but it is "very" expensive. You better look at guest houses, homestays (homestaykorea.com) and goshiwons - what suits your budget. Look for accomodation or for a room-mate at forum of Korea4Expat and Craiglist-Seoul websites.
    All the best.

  5. Hey I'm Angela and I'm currently researching Korean Language Insituites in Seoul and I was wondering if you are able to answer some questions I have on Sogang?
    And also is it ok if I email you instead ?

    It would be amazing if you could help me out.

    Thank you

  6. Hi Angela,

    Sure you can email me your questions. My email is:

    1. Hi sorry for the late reply,
      but thank you so much for helping out. I really appreciate it !

  7. Hi, I've just read this post of yours and I must say, its really useful for me as I will be applying to either Sogang or Kyung Hee. However, I was wondering whether which university's teaching method is more interesting? One that is easier to understand and fun? Thanks in advance.

  8. @Sann Sann:
    Hi, Thanks.
    Regarding your question which university has an easier/fun teaching method while studying Korean? I think methods are good at both - Sogang and Kyunghee but more depends on the individual teacher at any given place. Same book can become boring or interesting depending on the teacher. Have you seen students sleeping in the class and if yes, you should also know the answer. :-)
    At Sogang, students learn to speak quite quickly...it also depends on individual efforts and the company you have.
    Having a good, passionate, interesting, fun loving teachers is more of a jackpot or lotto.
    More or less, you will do just fine where ever you will choose to study, I believe. You are the main driver of it.
    All the best.

  9. Sarah, I'm impressed with how well you've responded to questions. Thank you, I've found all of this very helpful. I also have a question: What university(s) would you suggest to study Korean in the cities other than Seoul and Gyeonggi province?

  10. Hi Tamara,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Your question is a little difficult (because I've studied in Seoul) but it's still important. When I said, choosing a university outside Gyeonggi and Seoul is a better option was based on my observation only. Students who came from other cities trained in Korean were "very" well versed compared to the ones in Seoul w.r.t. equal time spent. There can be many reasons but I think that some important ones include:
    One: you interact with less foreigners; two: you learn the language quickly because it is more about your survival and three: lesser number of foreign language students means more focus of your teachers on you and more help/attention. Hence, a win-win strategy.

    Some of my friends have come from Chonju University, Donghae, and Busan National University ( I've forgotten the names of quite some places esp. in Daegu). Their Korean is excellent. In one year, they have reached a level to even attempt to write a thesis...yes, that's true!!

    I think location is important, if I'd known that myself, I would never have chosen Seoul. However, I have to say that your individual goals, determination and passion are also the important drivers.

    I wish you the best and will do a post on this subject in near future.

  11. Hi Sara!
    Great post! Are there any other universities you could recommend that are outside of Seoul?
    Thanks for the great info!

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Hello Jere,

    Thank you for your comments.
    I have mentioned a few universities in the comments above. Seoul city has over 60 universities both public and private. Every city has a number of universities big and small. The trick is that you choose a province and a city of your choice and then further Google the universities and language programs in a city of your choice. A lot of information is available there. I'll try to do a detailed post soon which will cover an array of universities all over South Korea province-wise.

    I'm traveling so I'm not posting frequently however, I promise you that I'll work on this in a month or less.

    All the best.^^

  14. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for the post. I noticed you mentioned the Ministry of Education. Were you able to get a job with them after completing your Korean language studies. Can you elaborate on some tips for working for the Ministry of Education.

    Thanks again!

    -Dave in Dongtan

  15. Hi Dave,

    I might have mentioned MoE but with respect to a couple of projects such as ATEK etc. I don't think that by learning Korean we might be able to work for the government except for a very limited job options.

    Anyhow, thanks for stopping by!

  16. Hi I was wondering what your opinion of Sookmyung might be. It`s my first choice tuition wise. Also, I`m planning to study short term (3 weeks) so if you know of any other good affordable short term programs, please let me know :)

    1. Hello!
      Well, Sook dae is a good school so I would say stick to it and once you are bavk for a longer program than you will have to work on your goals.
      I believe that universitiesin other cities are cheaper and since they have less foreigners you will end uo interacting with locals more and they are very economical too!

      Unfortunately all foreign students opt for Seoul. Go out of the way and it will have its own benefits!

  17. just came across this post...
    i was wondering it there are any career paths if im asian after studying korean?

  18. Hay. I'm from Sweden and are thinking of going to kyung hee university to study 1,5 year. What is best? 3weeks intense study or 1 and a half years study. I wish to search in on other program there when I've learned the language.