[Korea Beyond Korea] In Sao Paulo, horizons expand for Korean studies

In another indication of the Korean language’s rise here, students applying to major in Korean last year had the highest average grades, out of seven possible choices under the USP’s Department of Oriental Languages and Literatures, Kim shared.

At USP, students choose their major after completing their first year of general humanities study, and their choice is determined by their academic performance.

Currently, there are 104 undergraduates majoring in Korean, after the quota of students per year was lifted to 25, from the previous 20.

Aside from the pressing need to increase the number of faculty members commensurate with the expanded enrollment, USP’s 10-year-old Korean program finds itself at a critical juncture, particularly concerning the career paths of its graduates.

“How our graduates carve out their place in society with their Korean skills and knowledge will serve as an important barometer for the future standing of the department,” the professor said.

Student Bruna de Carvalho Giglio, in her senior year, has a pretty clear sense of what she wants, with an eye on pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree.

“In the future, I want to do scientific research on common misunderstandings, or errors, made by Portuguese native speakers when they first learn Korean,” she said.

Having always been interested in languages that seemed unfamiliar to her, Giglio discovered Hangeul at around 13 or 14 years of age.

“I was intrigued by the power and potential of Hangeul, and how it can be adapted as a writing system for many other languages,” she said, referring to the Korean alphabet created by the 15th-century King Sejong with an aim to help improve literacy among ordinary people.

Literary translation is another path Giglio is interested in. She is the co-host of a podcast titled "Sarangbang" on Korean literature, the first such program launched in Brazil with a focus on Korean literary works.

Asked to name some of her favorite Korean authors or books so far, she mentioned, among others, acclaimed Korean children’s book author and illustrator Baek Hee-na. “Some of her books have been translated and published here.”

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