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Egyptians Are Learning to Speak Korean

Posted February. 24, 2006 03:06,   


Korean language classes are all the rage at Ain Shams University in Cairo, the first university to establish a Korean language department in the Middle East.

The Korean language department, which became the school’s 13th foreign language department last September, has become one of the school’s most popular departments in just five months.

On campus, one can hear the Korean greeting, “Ahn-nyeong-ha-se-yo,” which means, “Hello,” everywhere. Students whose second semester Korean classes began in early February, have already become familiar with common Korean salutations.

“Our language students learned the Korean alphabet in their first semester, so they can both read and write Korean,” said Professor Park Jae-won, the director of the school’s Korean language department.

In a learning materials donation ceremony held by the Korean Embassy in Egypt on February 20, 33 students talked about their impressions of what it was like to learn Korean, and how it has influenced their career goals. Asked to introduce themselves in Korean, they did so, putting their Korean skills on display.

Students said the most difficult aspects of learning Korean were listening and grammar. They also said the Korean alphabet was easy to learn.

Park’s wife Kim Joo-hee and two volunteers from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), Lee Yun-jin and Ahn Eun-young, are teaching classes along with Park.

“Out Korean courses have been a success so far,” said Makaram Ahmed M. El Ghamary, the dean of the university’s language faculty. “With an increase in bilateral economic exchanges, Korean has become a popular major as many students seek jobs with Korean businesses operating in Egypt. We are planning to hold events like the ‘Korean Culture Day.’”

Korea’s Ambassador to Egypt Choi Seung-ho explained the Korean language craze in Egypt by saying, “When Korean dramas such as ‘Autumn in My Heart’ and ‘Winter Sonata’ were first broadcast in Egypt in 2004, Egyptians took to the emphasis on family ties and manners. This exposure is one of the reasons why young Egyptians have become more interested in the Korean language.”