According to the National Institute for International Education on Thursday, the accumulated number of takers of the Test of Proficiency in Korean, or TOPIK, stood at 2.12 million after the most recent test in November. The number of countries where the test is taken was 73, up from just four in 1997.
TOPIK scores are a requirement for foreigners to obtain some types of visa or college places in South Korea.
Nearly 300,000 took the test this year alone, a 140-fold jump from 1997 when 2,692 people sat for the exam, according to the data.
The popularity of South Korean television dramas and pop music are one contributor to the upsurge, the institute said.
The test, which started off as a once-a-year event, has been held six times a year since 2015 to reflect the growing demand.
The number of elementary and secondary schools abroad that offer Korean language courses also rose from 695 in 2011 to 1,309 as of 2016, according to Ministry of Education’s data.
By Bak Se-hwan (firstname.lastname@example.org)