It isn’t even close: Korean is MUCH more difficult to learn than English. (영어보다 한국말이 더 힘들다)
It is a mere mental barrier. Do you want some proof? Here are just a few simple examples.
1. The spelling of words in English doesn’t change. In Korean, even the word “NO” has been changed(!!!) from 아니오, to 아뇨. That is just the beginning. 갔습니다 or 갔읍니다? How can multiple spellings of the SAME word be correct?
2. The number of ways that something is expressed in Korean is far greater than in English. For example, “That is a beautiful girl” is only commonly said in a few ways in English, such as “She’s cute,” or “She’s hot,” or “She’s sexy.” In Korean, how many ways are there to say the same thing, and that you actually use? 10? At least? In other words, the number of ways that something is expressed in English is limited, practically speaking. Sorry, but those word lists used at hagwons are necessary for test-taking, but most of the words aren’t used in normal communication. The number of words that are ACTUALLY USED during a typical day when speaking English is far, far less than the number of words used when communicating in Korean. Not even close.
3. Hanja. On this, there cannot possibly be any debate. Even if you have memorized every Hanja character used in Korean, there are the combinations of characters that cannot, for all intents and purposes, be learned (사장성어). Many are easy to learn and translate (일석이조). Some are almost impossible (세옹지마). How exactly, would you go about translating 세옹지마 in a way that has anything to do with those four characters in 50 words or less?
4. New phrases become common in everyday Korean, but the same is not true in English. For example, 치마 바람 is a phrase used to describe Korean women, who are busily doing everything they can for their children/household. However, the literal translation has almost nothing to do this notion, and a lengthy explanation is necessary for someone to understand the meaning. The fact is that many, many people (almost everyone) in Korea understands the term, and would even use the term. However, new phrases like this example are rare in English.
5. 반말/존대 말 없음. Even native Koreans don’t use this correctly on a consistent basis. That 존대말 is used more frequently between/among men than it is between/among women even if they are the same age is something that even Koreans don’t always practice consistently. Many Koreans use 반말 when they should not. Of course, this is partly due to practice and partly due to 눈치. In any case, this aspect of using Korean correctly is very difficult for Koreans, so it is must be even more difficult for foreigners.
6. Saying something subjectively in Korean is very difficult. For example, I recommended the following in English: “I wish I could have had the chance to speak to you in English.” If you try to translate this into Korean, then my friend on Twitter recommended this: “너랑 영어로 얘기할 수 있는 운좋은 기회를 가질 수 있었으면 좋았을텐데.” This is exactly what I mean. Once a foreigner reads this (assuming intermediate knowledge of Korean), it can be understood. However, if a foreigner wants to say this or write this, that is a different matter altogether.
7. Korean Dictionary? Necessary, But Inadequate
This tweet appeared, and makes the point almost exactly:
@soniassi I hate it when old people talk in manhwa bc I can’t understand anything they’re saying and none of it is in the dictionary
The problem? You can use the dictionary to look up individual words. Can you find the correct usage or the real meaning? Nope. In English, this can be done. There is no shortcut, and almost no class that you can take.
The key point: you already know a language harder than English. So, there is no reason to be afraid.