Illustration by S.I.R. MacaisaFOR KYOUNG-Min Park, a Korean student in the University, his “Konglish” needed serious polishing.

A sophomore Architecture student, Park decided to study in UST because of his desire to sharpen his English-speaking skill.

“In Korea, they do not teach English well. So I just came here for English classes,” Park said.

Park, who entered the University in 2006, was one of the 130 Korean students enrolled in the University last school year.

Figures from the Registrar’s office show that there has been a dramatic increase in Koreans studying in UST for the past three academic years.

From 86 Korean Thomasians in 2005, the number rose to 101 in 2006, an increase of 17 percent. In 2007, the Korean students’ population rose to 130.

This is because of the “evolving international character of the University,” said Jaime Jimenez, a professor and a political analyst of the Faculty of Arts and Letters.

“It could be an acknowledgement that our University is simply one of the best Catholic educational institutions in the region,” Jimenez said.

He noted that visiting professors from universities abroad have been impressed at UST’s stature. “They would always want to walk through the main entrance and under the Arch of the Centuries and would tell their friends that they have visited one of the oldest universities in the world,” Jimenez said.

Park said Koreans prefer to study in the Philippines’s “Big Four” — UST, the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, and De La Salle University — because of excellence in English pedagogy.

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Trend, not popularity

But for Antonino Tobias IV, a sociology professor from Artlets, the “Korean boom” does not really mean UST is popular abroad.

Tobias said the phenomenon was due to globalization, which has been pushing Koreans to educate themselves in countries more proficient in English.

“The number of Korean Thomasians should not be used as a scale of UST’s popularity abroad. We cannot directly attribute their increase to the popularity of the University. Instead, it is more of a trend,” Tobias said.

“The era of globalization has pushed Koreans to learn English in order for them to be competitive in terms of communication,” he added.

Tobias said that Koreans studying English are not limited to schools like UST or any of the “Big Four.”

He added Koreans go here because they find education in the Philippines cheaper than in the United States and Europe.

“The middle class would come to the Philippines because of less expensive education but the Korean elites would prefer America or Europe,” Tobias said. Korean students can also be found in cities like Baguio, Cebu, and Davao, he said.

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