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What percentage of Korea speaks English?

What Percentage of Korea Speaks English?


In recent years, there has been a growing interest in South Korea and its culture. As more foreigners visit or move to the country, there is a need to communicate effectively with Koreans. One of the most common languages spoken worldwide is English, but how widely is the language spoken in Korea? In this article, we will explore the percentage of Koreans who speak English and why it matters.

The Language Landscape in Korea

Korean is the official language of South Korea, and it is spoken by the majority of the population. However, English has become a popular second language among Koreans due to globalization, international trade, and tourism. Many Korean schools teach English from an early age, and proficiency in the language is often seen as a way to enhance career prospects.

Statistics on English Proficiency in Korea

According to the 2020 EF EPI (English Proficiency Index), South Korea ranks 31st out of 100 countries in terms of English proficiency. The report shows that only 17.81% of adults in Korea are proficient in English, which indicates that there is still room for improvement.

Differences in English Proficiency by Age

A study by the Korean Educational Development Institute found that younger generations tend to have higher levels of English proficiency than older generations. This could be due to increased exposure to English through technology or educational opportunities.

Differences in English Proficiency by Region

English proficiency varies by region in Korea. Major cities like Seoul tend to have higher levels of proficiency due to their cosmopolitan nature and the number of international companies based there. In contrast, rural areas may have lower levels of proficiency due to limited access to English language resources.

The Importance of English Proficiency in Korea

As mentioned earlier, English proficiency is crucial for Koreans who wish to enhance their career prospects. Many Korean companies require employees to have a certain level of English proficiency, especially those in the tourism or international trade industries. Additionally, English proficiency is essential for studying abroad or communicating with foreigners.

The Role of the Korean Government in Promoting English

The Korean government recognizes the importance of English proficiency and has implemented various initiatives to promote the language. For example, the Ministry of Education has introduced English immersion programs in schools and universities, and the Ministry of Culture has supported English-language content creation.

English Education in Korea

English education is an essential part of the Korean curriculum, and it starts from elementary school. Students learn grammar, vocabulary, and reading comprehension skills through textbooks and classroom instruction. However, some critics argue that the focus on grammar and test preparation may not be effective in developing practical communication skills.

The Role of Private Language Institutes in Korea

Private language institutes, also known as hagwons, are prevalent in Korea and offer English classes to students of all ages. These institutes may provide more personalized instruction than schools, but they can also be expensive and put pressure on students to achieve high test scores.

The Future of English Proficiency in Korea

As Korea continues to grow as a global player, there will likely be an increased demand for English proficiency. The government and educational institutions will need to continue to prioritize English education and find new ways to improve language instruction.


In conclusion, while Korea has made significant strides in promoting English proficiency, there is still much work to be done. The percentage of Koreans who speak English is only a small fraction of the population, and efforts to improve language instruction and accessibility must continue to meet the demands of a globalized world.


– EF EPI (2020). Retrieved from

– Korean Educational Development Institute (2019). Retrieved from

– Ministry of Education (2021). Retrieved from

– Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (2019). Retrieved from

How widely is English spoken in Korea?

Despite being a modern capital city, Seoul in South Korea does not have many fluent English speakers among its local population. English is not widely spoken in the country. However, tourists may have better luck communicating with locals who speak English in popular tourist spots like Myeongdong, Dongdaemun, and Hongdae.

How much of South Korea’s population speaks English?

The most widely spoken second language was English at 87%, with Japanese and Chinese following behind at 26.7% and 19.6% respectively, as of November 27th, 2017.

What percentage of Japanese speak English?

The primary language spoken in Japan is Japanese, but studies suggest that between 13 and 30% of Japanese people also possess some knowledge of English, although only about 9% feel comfortable speaking it.

Do a lot of Korean people speak English?

Based on my personal experience, Koreans typically do not speak English to foreigners. Even though most Koreans under 40 have had 10 years of English education in school, it is taught more as an academic subject like Latin, rather than as a practical language.

Is English hard for Korean speakers?

The phonetics, grammar, and pronunciation of English and Korean are vastly different. Korean learners of English face a lot of challenges with pronunciation because there are many sounds in English that are not present in Korean.

Which country speaks the most English?

The countries with the highest number of English speakers are the United States and India, with 283 million and 246 million respectively. Other countries with significant numbers include Pakistan with 108 million, Nigeria with 79 million, and the Philippines with 64 million speakers.

The Role of English Language Proficiency for International Business

English language proficiency is an essential factor for international business in today’s global economy. As Korea continues to develop its international trade relations, the ability to communicate effectively in English becomes increasingly important. In recent years, South Korea has been expanding its business relationships with English-speaking countries like the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, making English proficiency an even more valuable skill.

The Benefits of Bilingualism

Bilingualism has many benefits beyond just career prospects. Studies have shown that bilingual people have better cognitive abilities, including better problem-solving skills, enhanced creativity, and improved memory. Additionally, bilingualism can help individuals to better understand and appreciate other cultures and perspectives.

The Impact of COVID-19 on English Education in Korea

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on education systems around the world, including in Korea. With schools closed and social distancing measures in place, many students have had to transition to online learning. This shift has presented challenges for English language instruction, as it can be difficult to replicate the interactive nature of classroom learning online.

The Role of Pop Culture in Promoting English Proficiency

Pop culture has a significant influence on society, and it can also play a role in promoting English proficiency. Many Korean TV shows, movies, and music incorporate English phrases and lyrics, exposing audiences to the language in a fun and engaging way. Additionally, popular Korean celebrities who are fluent in English can serve as role models for young people seeking to improve their language skills.

The Importance of Cross-Cultural Communication

In addition to language proficiency, cross-cultural communication skills are essential for success in a globalized world. Understanding cultural differences and adapting communication styles accordingly can help to avoid misunderstandings and build stronger relationships with international partners. This includes not just language differences but also differences in nonverbal communication, customs, and values.

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