With the Korean Wave gaining more popularity, the numbers of foreigners that wish to learn Korean is rising. Last year, more than 370,000 people applied to take TOPIK, a Korean language evaluation test for foreigners or Koreans living abroad who do not speak Korean as their first language. In light of such demand, TOPIK will be offered in Internet-based test (IBT) format starting from 2022, to replace the current paper-based test (PBT), which consumes much time in printing, delivering and collecting test papers.
First launched in 1997 with 2,692 applicants, the number of TOPIK’s applicants reached more than 2.82 million as of last year. According to the National Institute for International Education (NIIE) under the Ministry of Education, the number of TOPIK applicants has grown 15% annually over the last three years. Some 36,000 applicants will be taking this year’s first test on January 12, which is 20% higher compared to the same period last year. The number of applicants for this year is expected to reach 450,000 this year.
The driver behind this growth is mainly the Korean Wave. “Many of the applicants are taking TOPIK because they are interested in the Korean Wave, with BTS most popularly known, want to learn Korean and test their proficiency,” said an official of the education institute.
There are many foreigners who take the test for academic or vocational purposes, such as coming to study or get jobs in Korea. TOPIK scores are required for international students who wish to study at undergraduate/graduate programs in Korea or obtain a working visa should have TOPIK scores. TOPIK is particularly gaining popularity in Southeast Asia.
The test is held most frequently in Vietnam at five times a year. In Vietnam, Korean language is growing highly popular with its national football team manager Park Hang-seo winning the hearts of Vietnam people and while proficiency in Korean ensure double wage levels.
In Myanmar and Nepal, there is a strong demand of people who wish to work in Korea. Many people line up to apply for TOPIK and accommodation facilities near the test venue on the test date are usually sold out.
“Korean contents are very popular, which is why I use BTS music and Korean dramas in my classes,” said an instructor who teaches TOPIK at East Timor. “I feel very proud when I see students who study hard to work in Korea.” As such, around 86% of TOPIK applicants are teenagers and in their 20s.
The NIIE says that IBT TOPIK will increase the number of annual tests up to 12 times, which is twice the current number. A bank question system will also be introduced to replace the current system where examiners spend many days under strict security to set the exam.
IBT TOPIK will be first introduced in areas with high demand and supporting IT framework, such as China, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam. It is expected to take up to four years to expand to countries with less advanced IT infrastructure such as Africa. With IBT introduction, the education institute aspires to establish TOPIK as a globally authoritative evaluation as TOEFL.
Ye-Na Choi email@example.com