Korean language rising in popularity among Saudis

There are a variety of reasons why Saudis want to learn Korean. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 July 2019

Korean language rising in popularity among Saudis

  • Korean is the 20th most spoken language in the world, and is gaining popularity as the second foreign language across Asia

JEDDAH: Korean music and TV, better known as K-pop and K-drama, have relished a momentous rise in popularity all over the world.

As Korean soap operas and pop groups have captivated audiences, Korean has become an appealing language to learn. Now, Saudis are joining the growing crowd of enthusiasts.

There are a variety of reasons why Saudis want to learn Korean: To enjoy watching their favorite shows in the original language, to visit and experience the culture of Korea first-hand, or even to move to South Korea. 

“Most of my students loved K-pop and Korean dramas, and they wanted to expand their knowledge by learning the language,” Myung Hee Park from the Korean International School in Jeddah told Arab News.

“Sometimes they learned the language because they wanted to understand the shows without having to read the English subtitles.”

People from all over Saudi Arabia are traveling to Korea to attend concerts and watch their favorite artists perform.

“Lots of the people who come to learn from me have an experience of visiting Korea and enjoying concerts by artists such as BTS, Monsta X or SM Town,” Myung said.

Saudi appreciation of Korea does not stop at entertainment. “Some of my students wanted to study at Korean universities too,” Myung said.

Last November, 51 people took part in the first Ambassador’s Cup Korean Speech competition, held at the official residence of the South Korean ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Jo Byung-wook. The competition was organized to promote the country’s culture, language and heritage.

“The growing interest in learning the Korean language in Saudi Arabia shows the strength of our bilateral relations,” said the ambassador.

“Korean is the 20th most spoken language in the world, and is gaining popularity as the second foreign language across Asia, the US and even the Middle East.”

Myung said: “There are many (cultural) similarities between the two countries, and I think that’s one of the reasons why Saudis have fallen in love with Korean culture so easily.”

She said Prince Sultan Al-Faisal Al-Saud “is an amazing student. Even when he comes back from long business trips, he resumes his lessons the very next day. I can see joy in the eyes of the people I’m teaching, and it makes my profession very rewarding.”

English teacher Amira Mohammad Al-Khateeb, who has been learning Korean, said: “It’s one of the languages that I’ve always wanted to learn. I’ve been watching Korean dramas for years, and at some point I sat myself down and said, ‘Amira you must learn the language now.’ I was delighted to find the school in Jeddah.”

She added: “After I learn the language, I intend to go to Korea and become a teacher there. I don’t just want to speak Korean for fun, I want to become a part of Korean culture.”


Saudi Arabia’s 6-point plan to jumpstart global economy

Updated 07 July 2020

Saudi Arabia’s 6-point plan to jumpstart global economy

  • Policy recommendations to G20 aim to counter effects of pandemic

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia, in its capacity as president of the G20 group of nations, has unveiled a six-point business plan to jump start the global economy out of the recession brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yousef Al-Benyan, the chairman of the B20 business group within the G20, told a webinar from Riyadh that the response to the pandemic -— including the injection of $5 trillion into the global economy — had been “reassuring.”

But he warned that the leading economies of the world had to continue to work together to mitigate the effects of global lockdowns and to address the possibility of a “second wave” of the disease.

“Cooperation and collaboration between governments, global governance institutions and businesses is vital for an effective and timely resolution of this multi-dimensional contagion transcending borders,” Al-Benyan said.

“The B20 is strongly of the view there is no alternative to global cooperation, collaboration and consensus to tide over a multi-dimensional and systemic crisis,” he added.

The six-point plan, contained in a special report to the G20 leadership with input from 750 global business leaders, sets out a series of policy recommendations to counter the effects of the disease which threaten to spark the deepest economic recession in nearly a century.

The document advocates policies to build health resilience, safeguard human capital, and prevent financial instability.

It also promotes measures to free up global supply chains, revive productive economic sectors, and digitize the world economy “responsibly and inclusively.”

In a media question-and-answer session to launch the report, Al-Benyan said that among the top priorities for business leaders were the search for a vaccine against the virus that has killed more than half-a-million people around the world, and the need to reopen global trade routes slammed shut by economic lockdowns.

He said that the G20 response had been speedy and proactive, especially in comparison with the global financial crisis of 2009, but he said that more needed to be done, especially to face the possibility that the disease might surge again. “Now is not the time to celebrate,” he warned.

“Multilateral institutions and mechanisms must be positively leveraged by governments to serve their societies and must be enhanced wherever necessary during and after the pandemic,” he said, highlighting the role of the World Health Organization, the UN and the International Monetary Fund, which have come under attack from some world leaders during the pandemic.

Al-Benyan said that policy responses to the pandemic had been “designed according to each country’s requirements.”

Separately, the governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority said that it was “too early” to say if the Kingdom’s economy would experience a sharp “V-shape” recovery from pandemic recession.