It is a common misassumption that South Koreans do not have their own language. Many people seem to think that South Koreans speak Japanese! This is totally false. South Koreans have their own unique language and alphabet different from both Japanese and Chinese. South Koreans read and write both from left to right and up and down. Although challengingly different from English, Korean can be learned quickly when a student becomes immersed in South Korean culture and life. Another advantage of total immersion is that you not only become immersed in the Korean language, but in South Korean culture as well. Initial language learning opens up more opportunities to explore the literature, music, art, dance, sports, etc... of South Korea.
In South Korea, you can't always rely on English as a back up to communicate. In South Korea, you will use and practice Korean every day; you will interact with native speakers at every turn. Even a simple task like going to the market becomes a learning experience. You pick-up subtleties, authentic accents and pronunciation, jokes, stories, and local phrases you never would have learned in the United States. Most of the time, you find you are learning new things without even trying; simply being surrounded by Korean day and night helps you absorb more than you think.
South Korea is also part of the booming Pacific Rim economy. Therefore, knowledge of Korean and South Korean culture will be essential to anyone interested in a future in trade, business, commerce, economics, tourism, or international relations. Total immersion simply makes you more marketable in the job world, even on an international level. After learning Korean, you have an advantage-an extra edge-above other job candidates. You have broadened your communication skills beyond just the English-speaking world. Your Korean language abilities are a major asset, and companies know it. Learning Korean can give you an incredible advantage in Asian business markets, while allowing you to travel to other Pacific Rim economies in Australia, South America, the United States and Asia. Aside from the job world, you may also use your Korean class credits earned abroad to add a major or minor back at your U.S. home campus.
Yet another reason to learn Korean revolves around the issue of international security. The 155-mile long Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) has marked the tumultuous border between North and South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Running roughly along the 38th parallel, the DMZ separates more than just two nations; it divides families, friends, and government systems. While North Korea remains a communist regime, South Korea commits itself to making democratic advancements and has achieved rapid economic growth more than 20 times that of North Korea. The nuclear power of the North is no secret; therefore, if you're interested in diplomatic relations or international security, South Korea may just be the best place for you to learn Korean. It may help you understand Korean history and possibly aid the future peace process of reconciliation and stable cooperation between the two nations and the rest of the world. Many U.S. government agencies, like the U.S. Foreign Service, look favorably on candidates who can speak Korean and know the workings of Korean culture.