Netflix hit show ‘Squid Game’ sparks interest in learning Korean

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Interest in learning Korean has increased since the launch of the hit Netflix show Squid game, the tutoring services reported, highlighting a growing global obsession with South Korean culture, from entertainment to beauty products.

Language learning app Duolingo Inc said the nine-part thriller, in which cash-strapped contestants play deadly childhood games with the goal of winning 45.6 billion won (38, $ 19 million), had stimulated beginners and existing students in the hope of improving their skills.

Duolingo reported a 76% increase in the number of new users register to learn Korean in Great Britain and 40% in the United States within two weeks of the show premiering.

South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, has established itself as a global entertainment hub with its vibrant pop culture, including seven-member group BTS and films such as the Oscar-winning “Parasite,” a dark comedy on worsening inequalities, and “Minari,” “about a Korean immigrant family in the United States.

Just this week The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) added 26 new words of Korean origin to its latest edition, including “hallyu,” or Korean Wave, a term widely used to describe the worldwide success of South Korean music, film, television, fashion and cuisine.

President Moon Jae-in this week welcomed the additions, calling “Hangeul”, the Korean alphabet, the “soft power” of the country.

“Language and culture are intrinsically linked and what happens in pop culture and the media often influences trends in language and language learning,” said Duolingo spokesperson Sam Dalsimer in an email.

“The growing worldwide popularity of Korean music, film and television is increasing the demand for learning Korean. “

There are approximately 77 million Korean speakers in the world, according to the Korea Foundation for International Cultural Exchange.

Pittsburgh-based Duolingo said it has more than 7.9 million active users learning Korean, its second fastest growing language after Hindi.

The King Sejong Institute, which is run by South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, had around 76,000 students in 82 countries last year, a rapid expansion from the 740 students from three countries in 2007.

Squid Game, Netflix Squid Game, Korean Language Squid Game A sign referencing the “Honeycomb Challenge” featured in Netflix’s hit new series “Squid Game” can be seen at the Brown Butter Café. (REUTERS / Edgar Su / File Photo)

Milica Martinovic, a student at the Sejong Institute in Russia, said she wanted to master the language so that she could watch K dramas without subtitles and listen to K-pop without needing to translate the lyrics.

Catarina Costa, a 24-year-old Portuguese woman living in Toronto, Canada, said the language has become more popular since she started learning it two years ago, when most of her friends didn’t understand Why.

“People are fascinated when I say I’m learning Korean,” said Costa, who uses the study through the Talk To Me In Korean online learning platform.

The program has 1.2 million members who study in 190 countries, learning words, including those added to OED, such as kimbap, a dish of cooked rice wrapped in seaweed; mukbang, a video, often broadcast live, of someone eating a large amount of food, and; manhwa, a Korean genre of cartoons and comics.

“There were thousands of people who wanted to learn Korean even before Squid Game or the BTS craze, but they often studied in solitude,” said Sun Hyun-woo, founder of Talk To Me In Korean, a Local online learning platform with 1.2 million members studying Korean in 190 countries. Now they are part of a “global phenomenon”; learning Korean has become a much cooler hobby, ”he said.

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