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Hallyu: Scholars address Korean studies issues in Taiwan

Lack of teachers, resources prevent Korean studies from flourishing

(Taiwan News, Keira Chang photo)

(Taiwan News, Keira Chang photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Numerous Taiwanese and South Korean scholars gathered to discuss Taiwan-Korea cultural learning, industry policies, and economic development models at the 7th annual Korea-Taiwan Cultural Exchange Conference on Friday (Dec. 8).

Park Byung-sun, head of the Korean Language and Literature Department at National Chengchi University (NCCU), said Taiwan's Korean studies have a history of about 67 years. Taiwan universities with independent Korean language departments include NCCU and Chinese Culture University.

These institutions are pivotal for the development of Korean studies, Park said. Additionally, the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the National University of Kaohsiung is emerging as a significant force in this field, she added.

Despite growing interest in the Korean language, numerous issues need improvement, she said.

Regarding insufficient faculty and inconsistent teaching materials, Park said that most Korean language department instructors in Taiwan are external hires. The decline of private schools and Korean language teaching institutions, coupled with the rise of the internet, the lack of quality teaching systems, and quality YouTubers or online influencers for Korean, has caused concern for the future of Korean learning in Taiwan, she said.

Park said that due to Hallyu, the trend of learning Korean in Taiwan focuses on interest rather than further academic or professional application, leading to a lack of drive for progress, potentially hindering later-stage performance in Korean language learning. Teaching materials also primarily cater to students' preferences, raising concerns about finding a more comprehensive and structured Korean language teaching approach, she said.

Park also said there was a gender imbalance in Korean studies, with more females interested in learning about different aspects of Hallyu.

Professor En-Mei Chin (金恩美) from the National Taiwan Normal University's Department of East Asian Studies said many Taiwanese doctoral graduates who obtain their degrees in Korea lack university employment opportunities upon returning to Taiwan, so they tend to pursue Korean-related work in Taiwan after obtaining their degree.

Kim said Korean research papers might not receive professional feedback and evaluation, leading to a shortage of published papers, and making it difficult for future students to reference and write reports, perpetuating a vicious cycle. She said Taiwan lacks active research in Korean studies and does not offer doctoral programs, causing a deficit in research output. The professor called for more academic conferences to enhance learning among Korean language teachers and improve teaching quality.

Chen Ching-chih (陳慶智), an associate professor at NCCU’s Korean Language and Literature Department, said the talent gap in the field is partly due to the retirement of senior professors and the lack of incentives in the academic environment. To encourage more researchers the Taiwan government and the Ministry of Education need to enhance relevant support, such as scholarships, study grants, and funding for teaching and research, she said.