Why Learn Korean? 15 Reasons to Pick up This Fascinating Language
Whether you’re considering learning Korean yourself, or someone else is asking you why you want to learn the language, you may find yourself at a loss.
In this post, I’ll give you 15 compelling reasons why learning Korean is actually an excellent choice.
- 1. Korean is often considered to have the most logical writing system in the world
- 2. There are over 75 million native Korean speakers worldwide
- 3. Many Koreans are on the internet
- 4. Learning Korean can give you a leg up when learning some of the other East Asian languages
- 5. “Konglish” is a linguistic beast all on its own
- 6. Korea has become an important player in world affairs
- 7. South Korea is a technological force to be reckoned with
- 8. Learning Korean makes you more employable
- 9. South Korean culture may be one of the friendliest in the world
- 10. South Korea is home to breathtaking natural wonders
- 11. Its man-made wonders can hold their own, too
- 12. K-pop is increasingly becoming an international phenomenon
- 13. Two words: compelling K-dramas
- 14. Some of the best movies in the world come from South Korea
- 15. Learning Korean gives you a peek into a fascinating culture
1. Korean is often considered to have the most logical writing system in the world
Hangul only has 24 letters, which is already less than the English 26.
Also, the way the Korean letters are written is said to reflect how your mouth or tongue looks when you produce their sound. For example, ㄴ (ni-eun), which is roughly equivalent to the English letter N, looks like the shape your tongue makes to touch the back of your teeth in order to produce the N sound.
You can credit Hangul as it is today to Sejong the Great, a Joseon king who ruled during the 15th century. Wanting inclusive participation from his subjects, he pushed for the creation of a writing system so easy that anyone could learn it.
In response, the scholars of his “Hall of Worthies” (a royal research institute) came up with something so easy and intuitive that “A wise man can learn it in one morning … and a fool can learn it in the space of 10 days.”
So if you’re looking for an easy second language to write, Korean should really be number one on your list.
2. There are over 75 million native Korean speakers worldwide
Yes, you read that right—Korean speakers worldwide. You don’t have to be physically in the “land of the morning calm” to meet a native Korean speaker.
In fact, as of 2023, Korean is the 25th most commonly spoken language in the world.
That may not seem like much to write home about. But when you consider that there are roughly 7,000 languages all over the globe today, Korean is right up there with the most popular languages in the world.
In other words, there’s a good chance you’ll come across a Korean speaker or learner no matter where you go, even in the places you least expect.
3. Many Koreans are on the internet
South Korea has an incredibly high internet penetration rate. (In plain English, “internet penetration rate” refers to the proportion of the population using the internet.) According to Statista, it’s 97.6 percent as of 2023 or seventh in the world.
This means that if you want to engage with Korean native speakers, you likely don’t even need to leave your room to spark that connection. It also means that, even if you’re not intentionally searching for content on Korea, you’ll bound to come across it at some point. (And no, I’m not just talking about BTS, but we’ll get to them later.)
4. Learning Korean can give you a leg up when learning some of the other East Asian languages
Although the Korean writing system is distinct, the language itself has similarities to those of its neighboring countries, China and Japan.
For example, Korean also has a system of honorifics that clues you in to the age, sex or status of the person addressed. There’s formal language reserved for elders and bosses, and there are informal forms for family and friends. The former denotes deference and reverence, while the latter suggests welcome and warmth.
Once you get a handle on honorifics (which are far more complex than “Sir” or “Ma’am” in English), you can easily train yourself to pick up these linguistic nuances when you move on to learning Mandarin and/or Nihongo.
5. “Konglish” is a linguistic beast all on its own
In my experience, Koreans are very welcoming to people of other cultures. On a practical and linguistic level, this means that they’ve appropriated some English into Korean.
“Konglish” is a beautiful hybrid between Korean and English. When Koreans say 디카 (dika), it’s actually short for the English words “digital camera.” They also use 셀카 (selka) for “self camera.” (That’s a “selfie,” in case you’re wondering.)
If you thought that was interesting, get this: Japanese has something similar. It’s called katakana, a writing system specifically developed to spell out loanwords that are usually from English. This ties back to what I said earlier: if you can get used to these linguistic quirks, you can transition between the different East Asian languages without much difficulty.
6. Korea has become an important player in world affairs
Turn on the news or read the paper and it won’t be long before you find something reported or written about South Korea or the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea has been flexing its muscles in the political arena and has taken its rightful seat in the community of nations. Proof of this is the tenure of Ban Ki Moon, the UN’s eighth Secretary General. One of his legacies? The Paris Accords—essentially the first legally binding document where signatory countries, including the US and China, vowed to reduce carbon emissions.
In addition to its other many allies, South Korea is an important partner to the US. It’s little wonder why the sitting POTUS always finds the time to personally meet with his South Korean counterpart. With North and South Korean relations being a continually developing situation, the eyes of the world are understandably transfixed on the peninsula.
On the back of strong bilateral ties, South Korea is investing not only in the United States but in a host of other nations.
As Korea gradually influences the global agenda, it’s expected that the Korean culture and language will only grow in importance in the coming years. For both economic and political reasons, learning Korean will help you understand pressing issues in tomorrow’s world.
7. South Korea is a technological force to be reckoned with
A few South Korean companies aren’t one bit shy about challenging the rest of the world. Samsung, the nation’s largest company, is arguably the most prominent example: it’s been going head-to-head with Apple for years now.
If you fervently believe that technology is the future, then you’ll definitely want to take notice of South Korea. As of 2023, it’s second only to Japan in terms of innovation. So if you’re at all a tech-head, it’s possible that knowing Korean will give you an advantage—whether it’s reading the latest news from Samsung in Korean or just understanding what the Korean bits in your manual are saying.
8. Learning Korean makes you more employable
South Korea’s meteoric rise over the decades has been nothing short of impressive. It’s gone from being one of the poorest countries after World War II to becoming an economic powerhouse. To date, South Korea is the fourth largest economy in Asia, the 13th largest in the world and can potentially move further up to ninth place by 2027. (Don’t take my word for it: just check out the 2023 World Economic League Table.)
Assuming these trends keep up (and they very likely will), learning Korean could be just as important as learning Mandarin for business and career prospects.
This doesn’t just apply to the possibility of working in South Korea, either. You may well end up working for a South Korean subsidiary in the US, too.
9. South Korean culture may be one of the friendliest in the world
Speak first with a hearty hello, as in 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo), and you may be amazed at how a single line of Korean can result in an outpouring of conversation.
You can also chat with them about their nation’s obsession with skincare and karaoke, how to make kimchi and other staple Korean foods, the latest in Korean cinema, K-pop and a ton of other intriguing subjects.
So when considering what language you should learn, go for Korean. The wonderful people of South Korea make learning the language so worth it.
10. South Korea is home to breathtaking natural wonders
I mean, have you seen the South Korean countryside? Just take a look Jeju Island, a place of dramatic vistas located off the coast of the Korean Peninsula and voted one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. It’s breathtakingly gorgeous!
South Korea is a beautiful spot on Earth, and it stays that way all through the four seasons. Trust me, you definitely want to visit it in this lifetime.
11. Its man-made wonders can hold their own, too
South Korea welcomes you through Incheon International Airport, which is considered the fourth best airport in the world as of 2023.
Of course, the airport isn’t the only feast for your eyes in the country. You can also explore palaces, quaint villages, shrines and temples that take you to eras past. Or stand atop the N Seoul Tower and witness the sea of innovation and technological marvel that is the city of Seoul. (Didn’t mean to sound like a tourism ad there! But if you saw these wonders for yourself like I did, you’d want to talk like a tour guide, too.)
Learning to speak the language will add so much to your travel experience. It will infuse more meaning and insight into what you see. And who knows: like so many, you might just fall in love with the country and want to stay there for good.
12. K-pop is increasingly becoming an international phenomenon
By now, everyone, their grandmother and their dog has probably heard of BTS. They’ve appeared on American talk-slash-comedy shows like “The Tonight Show,” collaborated with over a dozen music artists and have had even more brands employing BTS members to spruce up their image.
And who can forget the catchy and satirical “Gangnam Style,” which broke YouTube records by becoming the first online video to hit a billion views? It’s but a symptom of this Korean craze.
Sure, you can just bob your head along with K-pop’s famously earworm-y tunes and eat up all of the visual candy from their music videos. But why not take it a step further and actually try to understand what the singers are belting out?
You may just realize that the lyrics are far deeper than their bubblegum melodies may suggest. Or they could just be someone singing about their longing for a special someone over and over—but how would you know unless you study the language?
13. Two words: compelling K-dramas
Yes, “Squid Game” is technically a K-drama and you can fight me on that.
In all seriousness, if you’re the somewhat social sort like me (or, at the very least, not a complete misanthrope), you probably know someone (or are someone) who’s secretly or not-so-secretly into K-dramas. And can you blame these people? K-dramas have plotlines and characters that can go toe-to-toe with anything that comes out of Hollywood.
In fact, because of the success of South Korean dramas beyond their home shores, you can find many of the country’s actors and actresses tapped as endorsers, gracing billboards and TV screens and promoting international brands.
Whether you’re just starting to give K-dramas a whirl or are already into them, wouldn’t it be great to watch them without constantly flicking your eyes between the subtitles and the action on screen? That’s yet another problem learning Korean can solve!
14. Some of the best movies in the world come from South Korea
Remember “Parasite,” the first non-English film to win an Oscar? In fact, its list of awards is so long, it puts my weekday grocery list to shame.
Or “A Tale of Two Sisters,” which regularly appears on my horror-loving friends’ lists of “most terrifying movies of all time?” I tried to watch a YouTube clip of it, and that was enough to give me nightmares for days. Oh, and the fairy tale it’s based on, 장화홍련전 (Janghwa Hongryeon jeon — “The Story of Janghwa and Hongryeon”), is just as—if not even more—horrifying.
And what better way to experience these Korean movies and stories than to become fluent in the original language they use?
One way to ease yourself into these shows and films is with an authentic language learning program like FluentU. This app and browser-based resource has short segments from longer content like movie and show clips, as well as interactive subtitles that make it easier to learn unfamiliar words. You’ll be able to get a taste of why Korean pop culture is addictive in more digestible chunks, while actively improving your language skills.
15. Learning Korean gives you a peek into a fascinating culture
South Korean culture is in a league of its own. Just listen to anything from “The Dark Side of Seoul” podcast (which I highly recommend, by the way) and you’ll feel just how different Korea is from its neighbors.
And when you’re fluent in the language (like the hosts of the aforementioned podcast are), you can open yourself up to even more fascinating tidbits about the country like its history, beliefs, true crime stories and more. If you hunger for any of those, trust me: Korea can sate your hunger for days.
Above, I’ve outlined the important reasons why Korean is not just a good but an easy choice.
Economically, politically, socially, culturally and entertainment-wise, Korean comes at you from all different angles.
And each day, it’s coming at ever-increasing speeds.
Korean is an obvious pick for a language to learn, and the time to learn is today.
So take that plunge!