A program to promote the Korean language and culture will begin this fall at the Korean American Center in Irvine, the only North American site approved this year by the South Korean government, it was announced Monday.
The arm of the King Sejong Institute set to begin operating in September at the Irvine nonprofit will be collaboratively operated by Busan Foreign Studies University. It’s one of 16 new sites worldwide chosen to be added to the program, according to the Korean American Center, a division of Buena Park-based Korean Community Services.
Under South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, the King Sejong Institute founded in 2012 serves adult Korean learners and educators in 57 countries, providing operational support, standardized curriculum and professional development for teachers.
“We were selected for this prestigious designation because of the successful implementation of our own Korean language program, which has become one of the largest non-collegiate programs in the U.S. for adult learners,” said the Korean American Center’s managing director, Tammy Kim. “We demonstrated there is a strong demand in the community.”
Three-quarters of adults interested in learning Korean are not of Korean lineage, Kim said, and 33 percent come from outside Orange County, such as Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. Many want to learn the language for professional or business reasons, according to Kim.
Some work for Korean-influenced industries such as online gaming or work with local Korean-based companies such as Hyundai and Kia. Others are interested because of Korean pop culture, referred to as the “Korean Wave,” according to the KAC.
Orange County is home to the second-largest Korean population in the U.S. and is the county’s fastest growing community, according to Meg Lee, chief instructor for the KAC.
“Through this designation, the wider community will have a pathway to better understand and connect with the Korean community,” Lee said.
The institute will offer beginner and intermediate-level Korean language classes that will be open to all adults in the community, according to Lee. For more information, visit www.KoreanAmericanCenter.org.
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