INTERNATIONAL KOREAN ADOPTEE RESOURCE BOOK
About the Korean Language
The Korean Language is one of the most important languages in the world. At present, it is spokenby approximately 45 million people in South Korea, and approximately 25 million in North Korea.Also, around 6 million Koreans are residing in areas such as China, America, Japan, and the formerSoviet Union, and many of them use the Korean language.Linguistically, the Korean language belongs to the Altaic family. Languages such as Mongolian,Manchu, Japanese, and others are being considered to be of the same language system.In the case of South Korea, the modern language used by educated people living in Seoul isconsidered to be standard, and North Korea has established a Cultured Language centered on thelanguage used in Pyongyang. After World War Two, North and South Korea were separated, and ithas already been over 50 years since the separation. Because of ideological differences, differencesin the language have also arisen, but there is no big difficulty in communication. Also, with theopportunity opened by the 2000 summit talk between President Kim Dae-jung and North Koreanleader Kim Jung-il, it is expected that the language differences between South and North Korea willrapidly disappear.The number of foreigners wishing to learn the Korean language has been rapidly increasing sincethe 1988 Olympics and the 2002 World Cup.
About King Se-jong
King Se-jong was the 4th king of the Chosun Dynasty (1392-1910). He is considered to be thegreatest king in the history of Korea. He was a distinguished linguist, and is known to have beenespecially knowledgeable about phonology.During his reign, he criticized the practice of using only Chinese characters in writing and inventedthe Korean Script (
hunminjeongeum), phonetic symbols that harmonize with thecharacteristics of the spoken Korean language.
hunminjeongeum (the Korean Script) meansthe upright sound that teaches the people. Afterwards, the name was changed to
hangeul (theKorean language), which means “great language,” and it has been referred to as such since thattime.It is very easy to learn Korean because it is a system of phonetic symbols consisting of 14consonants and 10 vowels. UNESCO took notice of how easy it is to learn the Korean alphabet, andis awarding the King Se-jong Award to individuals or groups that have worked hard to eliminateilliteracy.
Understanding & Using the Korean Language
Prof. Jung-Sup Kim, Ph.D.Director, Institute of International EducationKyung Hee University