National Public Radio (NPR) of the U.S. on Oct. 19 said the K-pop boom has fueled a surge in enrollment in Korean-language courses at American colleges.
Quoting the Modern Language Association, the NPR report said, "U.S. college student enrollment in Korean language classes has risen 78% from 2009 to 2016, reaching 15,000."
Enrollment in Korean-language classes at U.S. colleges has jumped "while total enrollment in language classes has plateaued," it added.
The only other widely learned language to see major growth over the same period was American Sign Language, whose enrollment rose 37%.
NPR cited rising interest in Korean pop culture over the past decade thanks to the Hallyu boom fueled by Psy's hit single "Gangnam Style," BTS, the movie "Parasite" and Netflix TV series "Squid Game."
"East Asian Studies departments have struggled to accommodate the increasing demand for Korean classes, which historically have been limited and under-resourced," it said.
Michelle Cho, assistant professor of East Asian studies at the University of Toronto, Canada, was quoted as saying, "Because language programs in East Asian Studies have traditionally focused on Mandarin and Japanese, Korean language is a new area that really started to be offered in most East Asian Studies programs only in the last 15 years or so."
Victor Cha, a professor of government at Georgetown University in Washington and senior vice president for Asia and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told NPR that when he took Korean in the 1980s, "his entire class was made up of heritage speakers like him — Korean Americans who were exposed to the language at home and sought to improve their fluency."
Today, half or more of Korean-language students comprise non-Koreans who discovered the language through K-pop, NPR added.
Georgetown introduced Korean as a major this fall after its Korean-language classes reached full capacity.
The report said, "Michelle Cho also noted the shift from heritage speakers to non-Korean speakers, with non-Korean students now making up about 80% of her Korean cinema and media classes at the University of Toronto."