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This study focuses on foreground and background information in the narrative discourse of Korean language learners and relates these issues to the learners’ phase of interlanguage development. To consider Korean learners’ interlanguage, this study compares native Korean speakers with intermediate-level Korean learners in terms of how they apply tenses in different types of narrative discourse. The study shows that these two groups of language users apply tenses differently to indicate foreground and background information. In particular, the Korean language learners do not indicate foreground and background information through tense changes in the same way as native Korean speakers. Unlike Korean learners, native Korean speakers use the past tense to emphasize the information they consider most important. On the other hand, when native Korean speakers want to make a narrative more direct and vivid, they tended to use the narrative present tense. These findings suggest that intermediate-level Korean learners have only mastered the deitic function of the tense. To encourage these learners to distinguish between foreground and background information more naturally in narrative discourse, the modal function of past and present tenses should be incorporated into intermediate-level programs of study.