An Indonesian university is scheduled to open a Korean language center next month, giving traction to a movement to spread the language among a minority tribe there, officials here said Sunday.
According to the Hunminjeongeum Society and Kyungpook National University, the Muhammadiyah University of Buton in Bau-Bau will set up Sejong School to teach the Korean language to local students. The language school is named after the ancient Korean King Sejong, who created Hangeul, the phonetic Korean alphabet.
Kyungpook recently put up a job posting for two Korean teachers to join two local instructors in Indonesia, according to the Korean university.
About half of the student body at Buton is from the Cia-Cia, a tribe of some 80,000 people in Bau-Bau. Two years ago, the tribe chose Hangeul to preserve its fading language and began offering a Korean language course at elementary schools.
“The Hunminjeongeum Society planted seeds to spread the Korean language, and Sejong has taken over,” said Baek Doo-hyun, president of the society dedicated to Hangeul research. “An institutional base has been laid out to facilitate the spread of Hangeul among the Cia-Cia.”
In March of last year, Jeong Deok-yeong, a Korean teacher, started teaching in Bau-Bau but was forced to return home later the same year due to visa complications. The city of Bau-Bau refused to deal with private groups in South Korea and no Korean-born teacher has been dispatched since.
But the opening of the language school is expected to provide fresh momentum, and Seoul and Bau-Bau will continue their cultural exchange programs, officials said.
The two cities reached an agreement for arts and cultural cooperation and exchange in December 2009. Last May, Seoul invited a team of Cia-Cia traditional performers to a local festival. It is considering hosting Cia-Cia teachers for language training in South Korea.
Lee Ho-young, a linguistics professor at Seoul National University and author of the Korean textbook for the language courses in Indonesia, said the Cia-Cia’s adoption of Hangeul has given South Korea much needed confidence.
Lee, however, warned of becoming overly complacent.
“We have to keep in mind that without stable financial support and careful coordination with local governments, we will be bound to fail,” he added.