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.”


It was Russia, not Saudi Arabia, that pulled out of OPEC+ deal: Saudi ministers

Updated 04 April 2020

It was Russia, not Saudi Arabia, that pulled out of OPEC+ deal: Saudi ministers

  • Saudi foreign and energy ministers say Moscow's claim that Kingdom withdrew from the OPEC+ deal was unfounded
  • They said it was Russia that abandoned the agreement, leading to a collapse in world oil prices

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's foreign and energy ministers on Saturday denied Russia's claim that the Kingdom abandoned the OPEC+ deal, leading to a collapse in world oil prices.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said "a statement attributed to one of the media of President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation claimed that one of the reasons for the decline in oil prices was the Kingdom's withdrawal from the deal of OPEC + and that the Kingdom was planning to get rid of shale oil producers."

"The minister affirmed that what was mentioned is fully devoid of truth and that the withdrawal of the Kingdom from the agreement is not correct," the statement said.

In fact Saudi Arabia and 22 other countries tried to persuade Russia to make further cuts and extend the deal, but Russia did not agree, it said.

Prince Farhan expressed surprise that Russia had to resort to "falsifying facts" when Saudi Arabia's stance on shale oil production is known, the statement said.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia is one of the main investors in the energy sector in United States, implying that there is no reason for the Kingdom "to get rid of shale oil producers" as Russia has claimed.

He further said the Kingdom "is also seeking to reach more cuts and achieve oil market equilibrium for the interest of shale oil producers."

OPEC+ refers to the cooperation between members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil producers. The cooperation deal which called for cuts in production by the producers was meant to stabilize oil prices. 

In a separate statement, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman rejected Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak’s similar claim that the Kingdom refused to extend the OPEC+ deal and withdrew from it.

Novak "was the first to declare to the media that all the participating countries are absolved of their commitments starting from the first of April," Prince Abdulaziz said in a statement.

He said Novak's statement led other countries to decide "to raise their production to offset the lower prices and compensate for their loss of returns." 

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia called for an urgent meeting of oil exporters after US President Donald Trump said he expected the Kingdom and Russia to cut production by 10-15 million barrels per day.

Prince Farhan said he was "hoping that Russia would take the right decisions in the urgent meeting" so that a "fair agreement that restores the desired balance of oil markets" could be achieved.

The global oil market has crashed, with prices falling to $34 a barrel from $65 at the beginning of the year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Fuel demand has dropped by roughly a third, or 30 million barrels per day, as billions of people worldwide restrict their movements.

A global deal to reduce production by as much as 10 million to 15 million barrels per day would require participation from nations that do not exert state control over output, including the United States, now the world’s largest producer of crude.

A meeting of OPEC and allies such as Russia has been scheduled for April 6, but details were thin on the exact distribution of production cuts. No time has yet been set for the meeting, OPEC sources said.