South Korean rapper Psy and his recent meteoric rise in popularity are being credited for Brandeis University students rushing to sign up for the school’s first-ever Korean language course this fall, campus officials said.
The university said the course, Korean 10A, exceeded enrollment limits within “a couple of hours” after the sign-up period opened, and most of the 18 students who have enrolled do not have Korean roots. Instead, they were introduced to the Korean language, culture and K-pop music by Psy’s viral video and song “Gangnam Style.”
“Psy did increase my curiosity about the Korean language,” junior Sara Brande, a student in Korean10A, told the university-run news website, BrandeisNow. “I knew Psy was a really famous comedian so I wanted to learn Korean to understand his jokes.”
Her classmate, sophomore Leah Ditmore, said she enjoys K-pop and Korean cuisine.
“Asian cultures put a lot of importance on being more reserved, and while Koreans are polite and humble, they are really outgoing, too,” Ditmore told BrandeisNow.
“I really want to study abroad and work in Korea after graduation,” says Ditmore. “Maybe one day I’ll even become a translator or interpreter who can help young, international Koreans grow accustomed to America. That would be a dream job for me.”
Students at the university created the Brandeis Korean Course and Language initiative two years ago. The release of Psy’s single “Gangnam Style” in the summer of 2012 helped boost interest in the club and the school’s newly-launched language course.
“The demand for the Korean course has been simply astounding,” said the initiative’s president senior Ku Jung, who helped establish the Korean 10A course.
Brandeis professor ChaeRan Freeze introduced Jung to the Korea Foundation last year to help secure funding to hire a full-time instructor for the course, which is now being taught by graduate student Sung-Chul Hong, according to BrandeisNow.
The initiative also runs a peer-tutoring program in Korean and are trying to create more Korean courses, and eventually a full Korean curriculum at Brandeis.
“Whether or not we end up with a full Korean curriculum over the long run, I believe BKCLI can continue to help students in many ways,” Jung told BrandeisNow.