The government is to add Korean to the list of foreign languages that applicants can be tested in when taking entrance examinations for state-run universities, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hidenao Nakagawa said Friday.

The decision is in response to a request from South Korea, the government’s top spokesman said.

Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori will inform South Korean President Kim Dae Jung of the decision during today’s summit in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture, he said.

Mori wants to see the language added to the exam by January 2003, shortly after Japan and South Korea jointly host the 2002 soccer World Cup, Nakagawa added. The Japanese school year starts in April.

“We are considering introducing Korean in the examination to promote exchanges between the two countries, especially among those in the younger generation,” he said.

The Education Ministry introduced the national university entrance examinations in 1979. Examinees are currently tested on one of four languages — English, French, German and Chinese, which was added in 1997.

This year, 403 universities and colleges, including all 95 national schools, required about 532,000 applicants to take the six-subject test.

In March, South Korean government officials unofficially asked then Education Minister Hirofumi Nakasone to have the ministry add Korean as a new optional subject, sources said.

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