K-pop and job pressures connect students in Japan and South Korea
Nikkei -- Dec 15
The powerful allure of K-pop is inspiring a growing number of young Japanese to learn Korean, while demand from South Korean students to study in Japan remains high despite the deep rift between the neighboring countries.

The number of Japanese taking the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK), a Korean language proficiency test managed by the South Korean government, has surged 160% in 10 years to reach 27,000 in 2019. Japanese universities and vocational schools offering Korean language courses are attracting increasing numbers of applicants.

Rei Mabashi, 16, a second-year student taking the Korean language course at Kanto International Senior High School in Tokyo, says he wants to get a job at an airline or another company that offers ample opportunities to communicate with South Koreans.

In August, Mabashi took part in a training program in Seoul and made a South Korean friend in the country's capital. He says they enjoyed talking about pop stars from both countries together.

"Even though we hear a lot of negative news concerning the relations between Japan and South Korea, I intend to continue studying Korean," he says.

The senior high school's Korean language course, which started in 2000 with just six students, now attracts twice as many applicants as its 40-per-year quota.

The growth in the population of Japanese learning Korean is being driven by the resurgent popularity of K-pop in Japan in the past few years. As a slew of K-pop groups including multinational girl group TWICE have captured the hearts of many young Japanese, the number of applicants for the school has "grown surprisingly and is showing no signs of taking a downturn," says Vice Principal Shinji Kurosawa. Every year, about 10 of the school's graduates go on to study at university in South Korea, according to Kurosawa.

News source: Nikkei
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