International flags fly in front of the United Nations headquarters on September 24, 2015, before the start of the 70th General Assembly meeting. ( AFP / DOMINICK REUTER)

UN has not adopted Korean as official language

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

Social media posts circulating in South Korea claim the Korean language was adopted unanimously as an official language of the United Nations. The claim is false: a UN spokesperson said Korean was not among the six official languages used by the organisation; its websites do not list Korean as an official language.

The claim was shared here on Facebook on January 30, 2022. 

"Korean has been adopted as a UN official language. Currently, according to UN regulations, English, French, Chinese, Spanish, Russian and Arabic are the only official languages used, and official documents are only written in these languages," the Korean-language post reads.

"As the Korean craze caused the official number of Korean speakers (not including those in their own country) to reach 77 million, more than those who use French, an original official language, the UN voted unanimously to make Korean an official language."

Screenshot of the misleading claim shared on Facebook, captured on February 4, 2022.

Similar claims were shared on Facebook here, here, here and here

The posts circulated after South Korean advocacy group Voluntary Agency Network of Korea (VANK) pressed the government to formalise an official campaign to adopt Korean as an official language at the UN and other international organisations. 

The UN has six official languages -- English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic -- which are used in UN meetings and official written documents.

The Korean language is spoken by more than 75 million people, including 72 million living in the Korean peninsula. 

Some social media users appeared to be misled by the posts.

One comment reads: "It goes without saying, but my heart is filled with pride."

Another reads: "Wow amazing!! Korea is the best as always."

However, the claim is false.

A spokesperson for the UN Subregional Office for East and North-East Asia (UNESCAP) said: "The UN's official languages are English, French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish and Arabic -- Korean has not yet been adopted as an official language." 

The spokesperson told AFP on February 4 that the UN had raised "no resolution" proposing Korean as an official language.

"The Korean language is sometimes used at UN meetings where multiple Korean-language speakers are in attendance, but Korean is neither spoken as an official language nor used to write documents in an official capacity at the UN."

The UN's website documents the process by which each of its six official languages were adopted.

Chinese, French, English, Russian and Spanish were established as official languages by the UN General Assembly and Security Council in 1946, while Arabic became an official language at the General Assembly in 1973 and at the Security Council in 1982, it says.

Neither the UN Security Council nor the General Assembly lists any resolution proposing the adoption of Korean as a UN official language.