Korean pop singer Psy has emerged as an international phenomenon with his viral hit “Gangnam Style,” but his influence is reaching beyond pop culture and into the classroom as many colleges and universities report first-ever waiting lists for Korean studies courses.
As K-pop merges with American pop culture, more students are interested in learning about the Korean culture and language. At Columbia University, where students in the East Asian studies major can choose to study Chinese, Korean or Japanese, Charles Armstrong, professor of Korean studies, is seeing tremendous growth in Korean language course enrollments, especially among students with no ties to Korea.
“The overall trend I’ve seen is where 15 years ago, or even 10 years ago, the bulk of interest in Korean studies was from the heritage community, it’s now shifted to non-heritage students,” Armstrong said. “Most of them, from what I’ve asked and seen, seem to get originally attracted to Korea through music and pop culture.” (“Heritage” in language courses refers to those from families with ethnic or national ties to the country whose language is involved.)
I don’t quite know how to break it to Inside Higher Ed that Psy probably isn’t the oppa that’s filling Korean 101 classes.