Despite South Korea's obsession with learning English, it ranked among the lowest in Asia in ability to use the language, and just dropped to 134th in TOEFL speaking scores worldwide.
I wonder if Korean language learning is a similar experience to what I saw in China. I taught English to several hundred Chinese children--somewhat against my will, like when I was lured under false pretenses and driven two hours outside of Beijing to teach an English lesson (but that's another story). The students were not supposed to have fun when learning English, because the teachers who were my minders believed that staring at textbooks and repeating after the white person was giving the students their money's worth (my Asian-American friend was rejected, incidentally, because he didn't look foreign enough). When I took them outside to play English Simon Says or other games that practiced their speaking ability outside of the classroom, all but one of my minders told me to never do that again.
There were plenty of Chinese teenagers who were not shy at all at forcing an English language lesson on the bus, at Tiananmen Square, or in a restaurant, and, much as I didn't like being a walking dictionary, I have to admit some people in China were good at practicing everyday English.
This article claims that Koreans just aren't practicing the language outside of the classroom, and it's affecting their capability to be competitive in the global market. Why would this be? Are more people there shy? Maybe there aren't as many foreigners around in Seoul? Any ideas?