LETTER: Language lesson

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The Independent Culture
Sir: You report (19 October) on the prospect of English replacing Korean in Korea in the next century. It is not likely to happen. In the 20th century, use of the Korean language and the scientifically designed Korean phonetic alphabet has been a sign of Korean nationalism.

The concern reported in the article rather reflects Korean fears of being overwhelmed culturally. But this is the only country in the world where Bill Gates does not dominate and which has also fought off an attempt to take over their own dominant software company (their products are also more sophisticated than Bill Gates's). They also have a holiday to celebrate the creation of the national alphabet some 550 years ago by a royal research institute.

More likely - and preferable - would be for Koreans to become fully bilingual. It is not only President Kim who studies English assiduously. The national radio provides spots for the taxi drivers to learn.


Centre for Korean Studies

University of Sheffield