There are approximately 80 million Korean language speakers in the world, which include 50 million in South Korea, 24 million in North Korea, and nearly six million outside of Korea, mainly in China, USA, Japan, and Central Asia.
Grammatically Korean is related to Japanese and Mongolian (the structure of the three languages is quite similar). Korean is thought to belong to the Altaic family of languages, meaning that it is also related to Tungusic and Turkish.
This may come as a surprise, since many people assume that Korean is like Chinese.
Grammatically Korean is totally different from Chinese. There is no connection between them. However, many Korean words (as opposed to grammar) come from Chinese, since China has been the major influence in Korea’s literature and culture. Probably 50 per cent of Korean words are originally of Chinese origin. The Korean alphabet is unique among the writing systems of the world. This is because it is the only known alphabet in the world, which was specifically made to order. It was developed in the Joseon Dynasty during the fifteenth century. The Korean alphabet, Hangul, is perhaps the most outstanding scientific and cultural achievement of the Korean nation.
SOAS University of London is home to the largest concentration of Korean specialists in Europe. The diversified expertise of the Korea department allows students at SOAS to gain focused specialist knowledge both of classical traditions as well as contemporary developments, together with study of the Korean language.
The BA Korean Studies programme aims to provide cross-disciplinary knowledge of Korea, complemented by an appropriate level of training in Korean language. Modules are taught on language, linguistics, history, literature, film, art history, music, management and international affairs.
BA Korean offers the opportunity to combine a year abroad alongside academic studies. This year abroad is spent at either Korea University or Sogang University in Seoul.
The Centre of Korean Studies at SOAS maintains a very active seminar series, and students benefit from discovering the diverse fields of work related to Korea first-hand from scholars from all around the world.