English in Korea


I was in Seoul last weekend for the 2nd Extensive Reading World Congress (video of our workshop coming soon).

Seoul is a great city, and I get the feeling I would become very fond of it if I lived there and got to know it well.

This time though, I was very surprised at the general lack of English. My impression of Korea is that it is a country that is really emphasizing practical English skills. I have visited a couple of leading universities in Seoul in the past and was very impressed with their curricula.

However, walking around the city, I found that very few people seem to speak English outside of hotels and the airport. Everyone was very friendly and I didn’t have any problems that couldn’t be solved with a smile, some sign language, and a ‘kam sa ham ni da’, but the lack of English proficiency surprised me.

Does anyone have more extensive experience of Korea? Is my impression accurate?

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