Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

University Entrance Examination and the Korean Language
KATO Junpei / Professor of international relations at Tokiwa University

October 19, 2000
It has been reported that starting in 2003 the tests conducted by the National Center for University Entrance Examination* (the so-called "Center Tests") can be taken in Korean as well. Having advocated the inclusion of the Korean language as one of the languages offered in the exam, I hailed the news report.

Korean, being the closest language to Japanese in the world, is easier than any language for the Japanese to acquire. Yet, many Japanese are unaware of this fact. They are virtually ignorant about Korea and its culture, a country that lies across only a strip of water. If prospective candidates realize that they can sit college entrance exams in Korean, a language they can acquire in a shorter period of time and score better than taking the exams in English, Japanese high school students who take up the Korean language likely will increase and contribute to growing interests in Korea and its culture.

Post-World War II Japan entirely turned its attention to the West partly because of special ties it has had with the United States. In contrast its understanding of and interest in its Asian neighbors declined. With regard to Korea, in spite of the colonial rule by Japan that ravaged the country before the war, the Korean commodore, I Soon-sin, was admired as the model for Imperial Japanese Navy officers, and I Toegye, the Neo-Confucianist scholar, was revered by Japanese Confucianists. They have been largely forgotten in the postwar days.

Japanese people lost their sense of affinity toward Korea partly because they had grown tired of persistent attacks by Koreans' against Japan. The I Syng-man administration which came into power soon after Korea's independence, waged vehement anti-Japan campaigns to stir up nationalistic sentiment. This had its effects for years on Japan-Korea relations and led many Japanese to believe that they were disliked by Koreans. In fact a lot of Japanese who visited Korea were annoyed for themselves to hear severe criticism of Japan voiced by Korean intellectuals. President Kim Dae-jung's attention to developing relations with Japan has induced change in the Japanese people's sentiment toward Korea, however, and, now, the number of Japanese who study the Korean language is increasing gradually.

Some time ago Korean college entrance exam candidates could choose Japanese just as it was possible to choose English as a foreign language when taking entrance exams for Korean universities. The number of students who chose Japanese rose year after year as they found that cramming up on Japanese for one year at a Japanese language school rewarded them with better results than working studiously on the English language for many years at school. Alarmed by this trend the Korean government upgraded English to a required subject effectively demoting Japanese to a selective subject in an attempt to discourage Japanese learning.

The Korean government's sense of alarm was understandable as the number of Koreans studying Japanese grew to be the largest in the world while the number of Japanese who studied Korean remained insignificant. When the national University of Seoul planned to establish a Japan study institute the Korean government did not approve the plan for reasons of reciprocity as no Japanese national universities had a Korea- or Korean-peninsula-related institute.

Japan-Korea relations continue to be marred by an unfortunate history even after the end of colonial rule. May I hope that the courageous decision this time will mark the first step to putting an end to this unfortunate history.

* The Center was established in 1990 to conduct tests, which would provide scores for state-run and public universities to screen candidates. An increasing number of private universities and colleges are beginning to adopt the test for their screening as well.

The writer is a professor of international relations at Tokiwa University. He is a former Ambassador to Belgium and a former Executive Director of the Japan Foundation.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

加藤 淳平 / 常磐大学国際学部教授

2000年 10月 19日




かって韓国の大学の入学試験では、日本語も英語と同様に、外国語として選択できた。 受験生が街の日本語学校で、日本語を1年勉強すると、何年も学校で学んだ英語より力が付くため、多数の韓国人受験生が日本語を選択し、その数は年々増えた。これに危機感を覚えた韓国政府は、英語を全受験生必修とし、日本語を選択科目の一つに落とすなどの策を講じて、日本語学習の広がりを抑えた。



一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > University Entrance Examination and the Korean Language