Korea is a country that has a long history over 2000 years, where the people have developed a wealth of unique traditions related to the way they dress, eat, and behave. These traditions reflect the natural environment of Korea, a terrain predominately covered by hills and mountains, bound by the sea on three sides and marked by four distinct seasons. Korea has been renowned for its traditional culture such as pottery and calligraphy but more recently, the “Korean Wave” expanded to Korean traditional culture, food, literature and language, creating more and more enthusiasts who follow K-pop, K-dramas, films, etc. The Korean economy is driven by the manufacturing and exports including ships, automobiles, mobile phones, PCs, TVs, and other electronics to countries all around the world. Korean dramas and movies are also widely exported thanks to the popularity of Korean pop culture.
The Korean language is the 13th most spoken language in the world, with about 75 million speakers in Korea and 5 million people worldwide. Hangul, the native Korean writing system (phonetic alphabetic system) was invented in 1443 during the Joseon Dynasty by King Sejong and his scholars so that the public with little education could learn to read and write. Hangeul is composed of nineteen consonants and twenty-one vowels. It can express virtually all the sounds produced by nature and humans. Every year, UNESCO presents the King Sejong Literacy Prize to people who have made a distinguished contribution to the elimination of illiteracy. The inclusion of King Sejong in the name of the prize may be said to be tacit recognition of his greatest accomplishment, the creation of Hangeul, which is easy to learn and use.
The Korean Language Program at Rice guides students to learn Korean at an academic level though our focus on critical language analysis, cultural and social language use, and communicative and interactional abilities in Korean.
Korean is one of the options that fulfills the language requirements for the Asian Studies major offered by the Chao Center for Asian Studies and for the Linguistics major offered by the Rice Linguistics Department.