National language institute to deploy AI for more objective Korean tests

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National language institute to deploy AI for more objective Korean tests
Chang So-won, director general of the NIKL, speaks at a press conference held on her 100th day in the position at the Korea Press Center in central Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)The National Institute of Korean Language unveiled an ambitious plan to develop an artificial intelligence-based Korean language proficiency diagnosis system over a five-year period from 2023 to 2027.

The estimated 10-billion-won ($8.39-million) budget project actively engaging AI was announced at a press conference Tuesday, which was held to commemorate institution’s director Chang So-won’s 100th day in her position. The former professor in Seoul National University’s Department of Korean Language and Literature became the 12th director general of the NIKL in October.

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Chang said the institute’s plans for the upcoming years include a reorganization of the Korean language dictionary and the certification program for overseas Korean instructors.

“When evaluating university entrance essays (while working as a professor), I found the need for objective evaluation indicators,” Chang said at the conference. “When I looked into the SAT in the US or the Baccalaureat in France, I discovered the evaluation criteria were very detailed.” The director added that once such evaluation system is appropriately created at a national level, it could be used for various other purposes.

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Regarding issues of AI-based diagnoses becoming a “Procrustean bed,” or arbitrary standard, when measuring one’s writing ability, Chang mentioned that securing objectivity is also difficult when an evaluation is conducted by a person, since each evaluator has different standards. “If we can implement an evaluation system worked on by 80 percent humans, and 20 percent with the help of AI, it can further increase efficiency. This makes it possible to conduct writing tests on a larger scale.” Chang said.

The institute’s plans to reorganize and diversify the dictionary came after its findings that the NIKL’s 1999 publication of the Standard Korean Language Dictionary has failed to reflect major changes as a result of the digital era. Dakgangjeong (sweet crispy Korean fried chicken), goshiwon (small furnished living quarters that do not require deposits) and samgak-gimbap (triangular shaped gimbap) were a few of the terms that Chang pointed out to be added. The dictionary also has some errors on the current usage of words, which need correction, according to the institute.

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The institute estimated 7 billion won will be invested in the first phase of the project alone, between 2022 and 2026. The previous annual budget spent on Korean dictionary operation was 200 million won.

Following the hallyu boom in recent years, a K-teacher Certification Program will be developed to cope with growing demand for Korean language teachers abroad. To solve issues of unqualified Korean language teachers who are working in overseas private academies, the institute announced plans for issuing certificates for qualified overseas teachers upon completion of the NIKL’s special language course.

Since 1984, the NIKL has conducted research for language policy, managed linguistic rules and published the Korean dictionary, with the aim of improving the use of Korean language for communication use and increase the quality of Korean language education in general.

By Kim Hae-yeon (hykim@heraldcorp.com)

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