Korean pop music got 19-year-old University of Auckland student Tim Haines interested in the Korean culture, and he's now studying the language with the hope of finding a job in South Korea when he graduates.

The huge popularity of Korean dramas, K-pop and K-films in Auckland has seen interest in the Korean language grow sharply over the past year, said Korean Education Centre director Ki-seong Yeom.

The centre, which receives its funding from the Ministry of Education in Seoul, started offering free language lessons in July and the response has been "overwhelming".

"The growing Korean population in Auckland and the internet has helped make our K-pop stars and Korean movies really popular, but that interest has now shifted a gear up to people wanting to learn more about the culture and language," he said.


South Korean singer Psy's global mega-hit K-pop song Gangnam Style has been the No 1 song on the New Zealand Top 40 music charts for more than a week, and teens of all ethnicities have been seen emulating his crazy horse-riding-style dance.

Mr Haines said he was first introduced to K-Pop by his Korean schoolmates in Westlake Boys, and got "hooked" after listening to K-Pop band Super Junior's Sorry Sorry and Fire by 2N1.

He was among the first to sign up for the free Korean lessons, and hopes to work in Korea and find a Korean girlfriend after he graduates.

Centre adviser Lisa Lee said there were now about 700 students learning Korean in schools, and the number could double next year as the centre was in the process of confirming teacher support with several others.

On Tuesday, the King Sejong Institute, a Korean Government-funded language teaching centre, was also officially opened at Airedale St in Auckland where lessons - that include learning K-Pop and Korean drama - are heavily subsidised.

The Confucius Institute, which is backed by the Chinese Government, says interest is also growing in learning Mandarin.

Ministry of Education figures show the number of schools offering Mandarin has grown from 74 eight years ago to 129 last year.

This year, the institute also brought in 22 Mandarin language assistants from China to help teach the language at local schools.

"The number of schools applying for a Mandarin language assistant has also grown from eight two years ago to 22, and the institute is also providing an increasing number of courses in Chinese language, protocols and Chinese business culture for senior executives and local body organisations," said Gillian Eadie, the institute's business manager.

Ms Eadie said New Zealand's free trade agreement with China and the New Zealand Inc strategy had definitely had a positive effect on New Zealanders' understanding of the need for Chinese language and cultural understanding.

"Anecdotally, we are advised that parents are asking schools for these language programmes."