Korean is the official language of both North Korea and South Korea, which have a total combined population of around 73 million (23 million in the North and 50 million in the South). Korean is also spoken in large ethnic Korean communities in the USA, China, Japan, and Central Asia. In the past, Korean was often written using Chinese characters or Hanja. However, use of Hanja has now more or less been replaced by an indigenous alphabetic script known as Hangul, which was invented in 1443 by King Sejong (possibly with the help of other scholars). The fact that Korean uses an alphabetic script makes it one of the more accessible East Asian languages to study from scratch.
With the rise of South Korea as a major global economy and the influx of South Korean popular culture, Korean is becoming an increasingly important language to study. Recent MLA (Modern Language Association) data shows that Korean language enrolments in US colleges rose 44.7% in the period 2009-2013, which was more than any other language.
The Korean Sector in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures has a full four-year program in Korean language, which takes learners from novice through to advanced level. Students can pursue a Minor in Korean through combining language study with courses on Korean culture, film and linguistics.