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First Korean language school opens for Indonesian tribe

Jan. 29, 2012 - 19:24 By Claire Lee
The very first Korean language school was to open Monday in Bau-Bau, Indonesia, for a local minority tribe there who in 2009 officially chose to use the Korean alphabet, Hangeul, to help preserve its fading spoken language.

The Cia-Cia, a tribe of some 80,000 indigenous people living in Bau-Bau, a city on Buton Island, have been running a Korean language course in their elementary schools throughout the past few years ― ever since the tribe adopted Hangeul as their official writing system. The Indonesian aboriginal group is the first foreign-language-speaking community to have done so.

The newly opened school, one of the branches of Korea’s state-run language institute “Sejong Hakdang,” is the first institution to devote itself to Korean-language education in the Indonesian city.

The school was jointly established by Korea’s Kyungpook National University and Indonesia’s Muhammadiyah Buton University, the Culture Ministry here said.

“We hope to see more energy and enthusiasm for learning Hangeul in Bau-Bau (by opening the school and offering more resources),” the ministry said in a statement.

Named after the famous Joseon Dynasty ruler from the 15th century who invented Hangeul, the state-run Korean language school ― Sejong Hakdang, or the King Sejong Institute ― currently has 60 branches in about 30 countries.

The Culture Ministry said 15 more branches are slated to be open during the first half of the year, in 12 different countries including China, Taiwan, Algeria, Vietnam, the U.S., Sri Lanka and Peru. Their goal is to open another 15 by the end of the year, launching a total of 90 Sejong Institute sites worldwide.

Meanwhile, the Korean Wave, or hallyu, has been one of the major promoters of the Korean language, the ministry said.

“A total of 38 organizations from 16 different countries, including the U.S., Germany and Peru, have applied to launch the Sejong Institute branches in their sites,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We expect to see the international popularity of K-pop and TV drama shows to attract more people to study the Korean language, and the language courses in turn to trigger more interest in hallyu.”

By Claire Lee (