NT: 727081

Adq; 8144560. Vol: 1, Ej: 2 ,CG Ha"9O!tJl koroa's unlqu" alp_l ; ...

Bibffoteca Vasroncelos


411 H36

Korea's Unique Alphabet


nst Kang Ik-Ioong

© Yon hap









Korea's Unique Alphabet







Korea s Unique Alpha,bet

Korea's Unique Alphabet

C ,p)'righr © 2010 h)' The All Rights Rc se rved, No parr of rhi. book

Or hy an)" m[,":1I1.S without rhe wrinen

I", "'I'rodll~ed or ",ili,,,,d in ""y form permission uf rh.., pliblishl:t.

FirSTPublished i,,1010 b), <;.:,u,1 Sd<ction
III Korean l'"hl;,II<".' A"u";"i,,n Jt>"!;,,n·t:Il, Scoul I 10-1'Ill. I(or<:r I'hon(>; ISI-l) 7J4-9.167 Llldg .. I U 1·1 S,t~,H, . '",j.\, .d

I'~.;(:12-2173-1-9162 Em.il: rllhli.h,·r<i!'s,·,)ul~k"ri,,,,.c,,rll \X!dl.)i(e: www.senulselecrion.com



ISBN: ~~H-S'}-Y 1911-711-7


I'rim<,1 in ,he R"J1"bli~ of Kore;l

Korea Fou"dlltion


Seoul Sele~ion


Chapter 7

Global Hangeul 66
Introduction 6

Potential as a Multilingual Alphabet Korean Writing System Goes Global Chapter 8

Korea's Unique Writing System
Rational Structure Ha ngeu l's Rema rkable Characteristics Chapter



Cultura~ Endeavors 74

Hangeul in Fashion, Dance, and DeSign Calligraphy and Typography Inspiration for Cultural Pursuits

Structure of the Hangeul System 22
Consonants I Vowels! Combination Versatile Writing System Chapter 3


Information for Studying Korean 90 Oelving Deeper
• Alphabets • What Is Around the World

Invention of Hangeul 28
What Was There Before Hangeul? Invention of Hangeul Who Actually Created the Alphabet? Why Was It Invented? Chapter 4

• How Hangeul's Letters are Formed


Featural Writing


16 18

• What Scholars

Say About Hangeul

King Sejong the Great 40
National Defense! Science and Technology Cultu re I Social Justice I Sejong the linguist Chapter 5 /legacy

• Hangeul's Design 24 • The Hall ofWorlhies, King Sejong's • Chronology • Hangeul Museum:


Think Tar

of King Sejong the Great

The Story of King Sejong


• King Sejong vs, Choe Man-rl • Korean Language • The Cla-Cia • Mllmul • Various 69


Spread of Hangeul 50
Promoting Literacy, Women's Culture How did Hangeul Standardize Chinese Pronunciation? Hangeul in Modern TImes I The Many Names of Ha ngeul Chapter 6

Society & lu Sl·Gyeong

• Korea Wins Speed Textin g Wo rid Cu p 64 • Ki ng Sejong Literacy Modern • Typographic Designer Prize 72 77 84 Ahn Sang·soo

Dance Company

Hangeul in the Digital Age 60
Ideal for the Information Sodety Hangeul and the 'Oigllal Nomad'

Hangeul Typefaces





Wriring i a corner [One of civilization, a crucial invention that better allow people ro accumulate and pass down knowledge and preserve cultures. I i a quintessentially human invention, but nor a universal one: according ru Ethnulngu«: Lmgllllges of /hl.! W'(Jr/d, there are currently orne 6,909 li ing languages in rhe world, yer only a minority of the e are wrirren, and of the e just a handful have their own unique wriring systems, Hangeul the indigenou writing ystern of Korea, is one of them. Promulgated in 1446, Hangeul i an ingenious system char utilizes forwnrd-rhinking and scientific linguistic theories and principle of Korean traditional culture ro perfectly expre ~ rhe sounds ()f rhe Korean language. Invented by the brilliant King Sejong the Greer, the alphabet has been widely lauded by scholars rhe world over for irs ad va need ph nneric system <1nd ea se 0 f LlSC. N ored Iingu iSf eof 'rey ampson, in his work Wlritillg Svstems. A Linguistic lntroduction, went a far as to say, "Whether or not ir is ultirnarcly [he brsr of nil cunce iva b le scripts for Korc~1I1, Hungeul rnusr unquestionably ran k a one of the grC:H inrcllccrual achievements (lr humankind. ' This book will examine rhe unique characreri tics of 1'111.' Hangeul writing system and irs impact on Korc:;J11 society. We will fi rst look ~H why many scholars regard Hangcul ~1. rhc world's preernincnr writing ysrcm, Wit- will rh 'n examine rhe srrucrurc of the alphubct, exploring the linguistic nnd philosophical concepts thar underlie ir. Wt' will urvey the hi .rorica l process b)' which Ho ngcu l IV<lS invented and ra ke nn in-d cpth look at I< i ng Sejong rhc Crear the

Korean king widely credited wirh the creation of rhe writing system, fter thi we \ ill canvass the subsequent development of rh alphabet over the ensiling centuries and study its impact on Kore;1I1 culture JIlJ socicry, L.1~d>, we will observe how! langcul hJS helped promote [be u e of information technology in Korea and look at the myriad way' in which the writing y rem in pires Korean culture and art, including genres like fashion and dance.


Korea's Unique Writing System




Chapter One


Hangeul clearly differs from other writing systems in that the principle. of borh it crea rio n and irs intended usage were ysrernatica Ily esta b I ished from the outset. As S uch, H a ngcu I feature a highly rational structure that makes it easy for anyone in the world to learn and use. 0 r Other alphaberic writing s sterns are the result of cenrurie of gradual evolution, and rhus are not as sy rematically and rationally organiz d. In 1lan 'cui, the bas] ... nsunants o ta k e their shape frum till: configuration of the speech orzans used or their articulation, whil consonants express ing leni , aspirated, nd fortis sound. were created with intuitive and expressive shapes. These characteristics arc truly exrrao rd i11;:\ ry when viewed [rom the pe rspcct i vc 1) r modern li ngu isric theory,


erner asse, a German linguist and former professor at the Universirar Hamburg, called the Korean writing system or Hangeul O-J-.t "rhe world' !;,'Teate t writing system, devi ed on a foundation 0 traditional philosophical principles and .cientific theories." Indeed, Sasse is ju or one (If many cholars who have praised Korea's unique writing system. Briri h linguist Geoffrey Sampson decl ared '.. ngeul to be a fearu ral wri [i Ilg system a nJ the 111 usr b scientifically based of all writing S),S[cI11S. Dutch linguist Howard F. Vo also lauded Hangeul as the finest writing system in the world. Umedn Hiroyuki, 0 japan's Reitaku University, has said rhar Hangen' i rhc 1110 t advanced phonemic writing system in rhe world and ;I featural writing ysrern rh: r is r. red a step above rhe Roman script. Why is () 1111,II::h praise heaped upon an alphabet created six centuries ago in a .m a l l Fast Si;11l kingdom? Wh:H :HC rhc characteristics (1 Hangcul thur make it so pecial?


The most widely used writing system today is the Roman script. Also called the Latin script, il is used in Western and Northern Europe, North and South America, Australia, various countries in Africa that were once the colonies of European powers, and other areas. Recently, Southeast Asian nations such


used in nations of the former Soviet Union, including

Russia. Other than

Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, as well as other countries like Turkey,

Vietnam, indonesia,and Malaysia, most Southeast Asian nations use an Indian script or a similar writing system. The writing systems used in these areas are presumed to have developed from the Indian Branml script. Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia have their own writing system, the Arabic script. There might be various differences between nations and peoples, but their writing systems can often be traced back to a common source. In the East Asian region, Chinese characters have long been the standard writing system due to China's dominant tnlluance.japan has used both Chinese characters and its own writing systems, known collectively as Kana, which are derived from slrn plified Chinese characters.

.I ,


have adopted the Roman script as a replacement for or supplement to their traditional writing system. The Roman script's growing worldwide usage is due in part to the fact that, as a phonetic wrilingsystem, the past several influence. centuries has also contributed itis relatively easy to learn and write; Furthermore, the globe I expansion of Weslern culture over much to its pervasive

Other writing systems used by large numbers of people include Cyrillic, Indian, and Ara blc script, as we II as Chinese characte rs. Cyrillic script. like Roman script, is known to have originated from ancient Greek script, and is

MIJ iff n Mj' 1'VltJ
'I QA<paI3IlTO


.. ..

Lalin Elhiopic
• Syllab~ ries

0 tJ 1"I":l~'N ~~ ;-)z ~~i

- Cyrillic Norih Indie
- togographles


• Arabic
• Hangeul

- South lndic


Writing Sy';!em


These characteristics make it easy for foreigners to learn to read and write Korean <'i:!':;;-OJ. Most people, when shown the relationship between letters of the Korean alphabet and the speech organs used to articulate them, as well as the method of combining letters into syllabic blocks, can quickly learn to read and write Hangeul (see p 16).

instance, Yuan Emperor Kublai Khan commissioned Tibetan lama Drogon Chogyal Phagpa to create a unified script for his empire in 1269. Hangeul, however, is clearly the most successful and WIdely used of these endeavors, being used by 78 million Korean speakers in both South and North Korea as well as the Korean diaspora.

Linguistically Scientific

In the mid Department being at the systems in characteristics. 19905, the Linguistics, Philology & Phonetics of the University of Oxford, which is renowned for forefront of linguistics research, evaluated 30 writing terms of their rational, scientific, and unique This study ranked Hangeul first. characteristics when compared

As a writing system created with the express purpose of enabling the masses to read and teaching them the proper pronunciation of Korean words, the Hangeul system reflects a good deal of advanced knowledge of linguistics (sec Ch.ipn-r 2). It is a featural alphabet ("'l' X), which is to say that the shapes of its letters, far from being arbitrary, encode phonological features of the phonemes they represent. (For instance, the Korean consonants "'I and :» are both based on -1. "'I and -n visually represent the attachment of phonetic features-aspiration and tenseness, respectively-through the addition of strokes.) It is, in fact, the only fcarural alphabcr III

Hangeul possesses several unique with other writing systems.

Perhaps the most notable characteristic of the Hangeul writing system, when compared to other writing systems around the world, is the systematic, scientific and historically documented process of its creation. Of 300 writing systems on the planet, most were not "created" per se; they developed over centuries, with little in the way of systematic planning. Hangeul represents an entirely new system; that is, it was created without imitating or adapting an existing writing system. In this regard, Hangeul is different, almost uniquely so. Records show it was created, if not by King Sejong the Great "i!]\,r!j c'n himself, then by scholars commissioned by Sejong with the goal of promoting literacy amongst the royal subjects. lr would be wrong to say that Hangeul is the only such "purposebuilt" writing system-other nations, ethnic groups and even individuals have attempted to create their own writing systems. For

wide use today. Moreover, the process by which Hangeul was in vc nr cd was noteworthy for its scientific basis and creativity. The shapes o! the consonants are based on the shapes of the speech organs used tor their articulation, while the vowels arc related to the three symbols of heaven ,earth, and humanity . According to the Hunminieongeum Haerye ("Explanations and Examples of the Proper Sounds for the Instruction of the People"), promulgated III 1446 as an explanatory guide to the alphabet, the shapes of the consonants represent various speech organs, including the tongue, teeth and lips. Creating letters to represent the shapes of the speech organs used for their pronunciation was indeed a revolutionary innovation. By way of contrast, the Latin alphabet-which originated on the Italian Peninsula in the seventh century BC and developed considerably



The three basic vowel characters of •. -. and I were created to symbolize the trinity of heaven, earth, and humanity, while philosophical principles were applied to create the remainder of the vowels.

Velar: Back of the tongue pressed near the uvula.

Alveolar: The tip of the tongue presses against the upper gums.

Dental: Sharp teeth.

Bilabial: Joined lips.

Glottal: Round-shaped throat.

+ +

* The 17 consonants promulgated by King Sejong in 1444 have
undergone phonological changes to become the 14 consonants of today's Hangeul.


+ +


= I· U] = ·1 [n = . [.L] = • [T]

+ + + +

I· = ·1 =

I: n] :1 [n
.!:. [.IL]


= =














Hangeut. Korea's Unique Alphabet

Korea's Unique Writing System


in the following centuries-was

a development

upon the Etruscan

alphabet which itself was based on the Greek alphabet, which in tum was developed from the Phoenician alphabet, where theconsonant characters were based on Egyptian hieroglyphs. Little or no planning went into the Larin alphabet development, and individual letters give few clues as to their pronunciation. (Indeed. different languages pronounce individual letters in a different ways.)

A a featural alphabet, Hangeul bears some similarities with scientifically created writing sy terns invented enruries later. uch as rhc \ isible pcech system invenrc I by Alexander Melville Bell (the father of telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell) ro teach the hearing im pa ired to spea k, Easy to Learn Un Iike hi nese cha racrers , which are logcgr a rns (essen ria Ily picture ), and the Japanese yllabaries of Karakana and Hiragana

the Hangeul writing ystern is ;1 hill-fledged phonemic alphabet. Hangenl is a phonemic writing system with a unique structure that visually expresses syllables by transcribing rhe.inirial, medial, and final sounds together as a single unit (see 1'27). Thus, it has the advantages of a phonemic writing system as well as a syllabic sy tern. The shapes of rhe letters are highly ysrernaric, while the sound that arc related to one another share similarities. Hnngeul is ba ed 011 a dual structure of ba ic letters from which the remaining lerrer are derived I"'" I'llil. III addition, Haugen] Ienrures a UI1IIIL1C operanng mcrhod rhar joins letters together by syllable to create yet another character, this is referred to as "joined writing." Hangeul consists of phonetic letters that are d ividcd into consonants )1 rid vowels a ndjo ined together [() form sylla bit blocks. As such, rhis method of writi Ilg nllows for easy reading and quick learn ing. It is also remarkably C.1Sy to learn-as rhc l-/ullmilljeoll};eulll Haerye puts ir, "A wise: man can acquaint himself with them before



A "featural writlflg system" is one in which the symbols that compose the system represent not phonemes-the segmental units of sound that make up utterancesbut rather "features." or the components of phonemes, which are considered by some linguists to be the smallest



componen ts of speech. Features include things such as voicing, aspiration and articulation. In the case of Hangeul, letters are composed of symbols that represent articulatory features-indeed, the letters are said to represent the position of organs of speech-which are in turn combined to form syllable blocks. Featural alphabets are rare; most are relativel.y recent inventions created for use as shorthand or, in the case of Visible Speech, to teach the hearing impaired to speak. The Hangeul writing system is, in fact. the
nnlu fp~tllr~! 'II_lriti".,. ~






is n {ullfledged phonemic + alphabet ...








Chinese Character

Japanese Writing




il"ll ,.,,,,....,...,.,,"'-,,






,~+ ._ - ..







Hangeul: Korea's

Unique Alphabet


the morning is over; a stupid man can learn [hem in the space of ten day ."While learning the Korean language itself re qu ir es considerably more study, learning co pronounce Korean wordsany Korean word, in faer-requires [ust a few days of study, This is in large parr thanks to Hangeul's orderly, rational system: pronunciation rules are regular, and unlike \'(!estern languages, [here are ver few exceptions [hat must be learned.




"Whetber or not it is nltimately the best of all conceivable scripts for Korean, Hangeul must III1CjllestiOIWbIJ' rank as aile of the great intellectual achievements lnanankind."


r offr(,v Sampson

Irr1Q h


,<'s .r, U 11'('I ilv (If <,




excellence is based on the fact that it is both ea y to learn and ea )' to use, resulting in an illiteracy fate f essentially l. ·ro in Korea, <II1J .:i1l>O include the advantage uf a phoncuc writing system, which enables it to expre s practically any other language. For example, Japanese consists of about 350 syllables and Chinese includes some 420 syllables, nearly all of which can be expressed perfectl yin Ha ngcul, For these reasons it is a rna rvei 0 us writing system rhar has gained attention the world over. It is also quick and easy to inpur Hangeul characters using a computer keyboard or cell phone keypad, and Haugeul i well suited for voice-tee gnirion software rhar i USed to convert verbal speech into writing "., ( h.1P['·' (".


"l langeu! is lin' world'« gn:dtest u-ritiug system, devised all .1 [oundatiou of traditional philosophical principles and scientilic theories.

Werner Sa


"Hangen! is the 1II0si aduanced pbollemic writillg system ill the lIIorici. and II [eatural writillg system '/)011is rated II step above Roman uniting ."

"Koreans invented the solei" creative 1lI1l1 amazing alphabetic writirtK svstent wiled II<lngelll (or/i,e Korean /1t·o/,le. l lange«! is I",dull's tlu: utost scieutiiic system fI( lI'rililll{ ill gellua/llse ill auv country."

.. Fhis is the simplest and hest set o] characters

ill the uorlil."


Structure of the Hangeul System




Chapter Two


one of rhe easiest writing sy terns to learn. onsonanrswerc based on the shape of rhe speech organ used for their vocalization or the change in the shape of the organ as the sound was vocalized. Theconsonants were divided into four categories for each of the five basic consonants of' (velar sound), r, (alveolar sound). [] (labial sound), ;. (dental sound], and 0 (glorral sC)LlI1d), as well a rhe characteristi of their sounds. These raUl' categories, which do not correspond exactly to English phonetic category terms, included weak plosives, trong plosives, voiced consonant , • nJ a category that includes nasal :)IId hquu] sounds. The combination of the basic consonants und additional SHakes allow for rhe creation of dozens 1110reconsonants. Vowels Th e th rec has ic vowels ( . , _, a 11ell ) [,1 ke rhe i r Sh:1 pc [ro m heaven, earth and humanity. These three hasic lcrrcrs were used ro form other vowels based Oil philosophical prin iplcs related co rhe 1:( rnplemenrurity of yin and yang. the five clements (metal t-I, water :':, wood It'?, fire ~, and earth ~,), and the tive directions (east ~. west "I, south 'It, north Ie:, and center fY~!). The basic vowels ,HC combined to create further owel .'i)·mho]s. l-or rhis reason, Haugeul hC:C,1I11<.: known in rile lure 20th century as .1 "Iea turu l writing system," one.: s re p above or her ph()I1~IIIil' (.drh,lh~·I'it.:) writing systems. The method oi' >111.1IY7.inAtill' on rul ogie.ll un i r of phonemes acco I'd i ng ro the a hs 11'<1(;1 .111<.1 discriminatory unit of features was Dnl)1 recognized with rhc ndvenr <It rhe 20th century. Sejon~'s oriAin:lliry in esrahlishing this method i hcorcricully and using it to invent a writing system in the 151'h century thus deserves ro be called rhc victor), of :1 scicurilic spirit 111.11 transcended its ern.

,lngcul consi IS of 141:()IIS0I1nnf' and 10 vowels, bur if we break these J 'ncl'~ down \ c find that the)' arc based on rhe Ii c bas i consonants ;·1 of 'lk, )41,I [n], n [rn], A lsi. ;1I1d 0 ilJl and


the three basil: vowc] ". of . 11'1,Iii, and lcrrcrs formed fKCordlllp_ ro rhcir phonetic fearurcs. Consonants


with extra

Hnngcul is based 011 five basic C(lIl~<)11.1IHS, each II( which rukes ir~ shape from the speech organ used to nrricula tc irs souud, while addirional consonunr'clll he crcnrcd hy clouhling the consonant syrnbr Is and/or adding strokes.
-or example, a line indica ring aspirarion produce :or, anti hy c.hluhlil1l4 the I if is possible is added to 1 to to produce J£S tense similarirv bcrv ecn tilt:

ounrcrparr n. In rhi \\':1)' rhc phonetic sounds represented by , and =l i. hi~h]iAhred,

111;~kil1gl langeul




e_-cae GeGG ieoe

Iii/ I'",'

L.+.-+t.:..=1:: A+·-A=A

/(0/ /Il/




* As a featural writing system, ~a ,g,



o oe





-l + I =-11 ..L+ ~ =.Lt ,+-I=T-i -+ I =-1

C+I:: t:I





n eul's structure , syst ematized so that new IS , tor features to existing letters, which letters are created by adding dlscnmln~l f~he sounds needed for the Korean enables it to most effectively express a 0 language,

= ~I ..L+ I =.J..j -r++ -II =T~I ,+ I =TI ..L+H=.LH

~+ I ~+ I



Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphabel

Structure of the Hangeul System


Hangeul is an alphabet, bur ir employs a writing system slightly different from [hat employed by other alphabet. III most alphabets, [he consonants and vowels arc wrirren separately to express a variety of sounds. In the case of Larin, Egyptian Greek and other typical alphabets, con onanrs and owel arc written our in a line. Hangeul isn't wrirr 'II like hi, however. In Hangeul, ('onSOIl<1l1[

wllables !Unicode computer

in common use according is a srandard inrcmarional

to the Unicode 2.0 standard. writing system rhat allows languages.l This




all of the world's

possible because Hangeul uses a system that Com hines a few basic phunerne to form sylla bic blocks. At fir r glance it may look simple, bur in order ro devise [hi
vysre m from cr a tch , Sejong needed nor only an abundant knowledge of phonetics but also it revolutionary "digital rnindser," wh ich recogn ize d ind i v idu a I sound 5 as com p lexes of a bsrract

and vowels arc grouped togerhcr into clusters. Hangeul can be written either horizontally or vertically, while rhe combination of these vowels and COIl~on:IIH n nd rill' space rbai each lcrrer occupie in each syllabic block arc highl s srernaric. S liable C:1I1 be made up of an initial consonant, a medial vowel, nnd :l final consonant; rhe initial consonant (either , con onanr or n si] 'Ill placeholder for

n vowel] and media I vowel arc 1l1:1I1dMory, wh ile tl fill:ll consonant
i optional. So Hangcul is wrirren sound and ending sound


follows, with the st:lninl4 sound, of each syllable wrirn-n us ;1 duster: o Ci hun min jeong eurn





\X/irh this manner of wriring, I 1:1 nucu I was able rll r'li.:c Oil the function of syllabic wriring lind, likewi. c, could he used e:lsil}' ro express Chinese word .

Versatile Writing System Hungcul is a uscr-fricn lI, \ rilin!/. syst "Ill rh.u :I!lOWS the expression nor only of the vocal sounds of people, hut of uarural sound :IS well, like a hird singil1,!.:. or rill' sound of wind. Hnngcul is ;11 0 llexihle enough to he ex panded to ('X press sounds rhat may nor ex ist in Korean hut do exi: r in other languages. Stich :IS Chinese. Thus. Hangeul can u c irs eight ha ic letter ro crcarc rhe 1 1,172 distinct




. Con50nalllS 1Inc! vowels am Vlrinen log~mDr In syllabic unlls. wnlch Bnnbla Ilorolonlal veruca! and cnmpl(}x c<uTlb,nulions. Ills also possible 10 willa ono Indlvlduall;hurnclBr all r another and "3""'h,, II,,,~II sloll be leg,ble.






Invention of Hangeul



Chapter Three



Prior to the creation of rbe Hangeul writing system-and, indeed, rven after ir=-rhe primary medium of formal correspondence in k orea was classical Chinese, which was based on Chinese as it was us cd ill the Zhou (1045-256 BC) and H311 (206 Be-AD 220) liynasties. ln Easr Asia, classical Chinese played a similar role to that 01 Larin in medieval Europe: it was the language of learning, law, and nucrnational communication, even in mlt.iolls-like Korea=-rhat did 11111 .,pcak Chinese, or even ~I related bngua!,c. The impact da~si(":ll ( 'h i ncse had on Korean culture, both ancient and contem porary, wa s profound: even afterrhe crea don 0 f rhe revoluriona ry Ha ngcul .rlphaber, classical Chinese continued to serve as Korea's literary and .ld11l inisrra rilie language unril ilist before the rurn of the 20rh ccnru ry. In deeply Confucian Korea, knowledge of classical ell i nese W::I'i Il'lluired for understand i ng the Con ftlci~lnck1ssics, a 5ine qua non for
pullriG:11office and social influence, Classical hinese required a gDod deal of study to master-the kmd of time only the very wealthy could :lfford-which resulted ill

he w ri l i Ilg systems II ~{'J in III osr c i v Iiizcd societies rods y urc _ alphabets that h:1\I1: been developed hy many people over .1 long

period of time from ancient wririn)'!;'ll~[cmS, ~uo;h us Sumerian ,\110 Egypti;I!1, It is (111)1 nnrurnl I hnr 11I:1t1y 11m ions nnd pl'opkswould choose nl ph;l het ic wri ri Ilg systems, si nee they a 1"1:: till' cryst :111 linn iza of III iilen n i:1 o f htJI11<111 wisdom. B)' contrast, H ;lIlA!:u I was created in
144'1 in the sl11.111 E;\st Asian lIatinll "F Korea ;h thl' pmdLl<.:t of the scienrihc research of om: man, Kin~ ~cjnnA the Crear. Hangeul is 11m the result uf following ill the i"UOI'stCPS of pusr writing systems hut rhe prod ucr of :I revolution i 11 the lead ing

.:: ,=.
lIn! ~

theory of rbc rime in E:lsr Asin: rhe d.le 0 !:)' of :11inese III rh is rcgn rd, rhc in III!Ill i011 or Hangen I can he seen ;1S a 11 epochal evenr in rhe linguistic hisrory of (he world. Yet even more
phonetics, amazing is rhe modern, fa rion a I spi rit rhar irs inven tor, Kin!!; Sejong, possessed.
ir,l IJ Wn11ng :$.y1em :'l0"9 n EI;~ :!ifNI II [I nn I)~!"lti IJflS to Ihn 5~dc (J1 I h f) Ct~,nese cham ct f1 rs Righi. SHiEl r;('''"a, Seo! (!Long wno ,sr.'ml,I~~ ""In 1i5~y<.umlvnl,nn



Hangeul: Korel'S UniQue Alphabet

Invention of Hangeul


literacy beilg confined 10 jusr a SI11:1I1 clirc 0 Korean society. n write the Kerean language, meanwhile, ;1 sysrern known ~IS Id II ol-i'was used, Idu was svsremarized hy the scholar Sco] "hong during the reign Dr King inrnun [r, 681-691) of the Silla Kingdom, I( used hi ne e chi racrcrs, wi rh some speciu I chn mcrers, ro rcnre rent Korean plnl1()log)', '\ hile the writing system wns in cornm 11 lise from the 5ila period 10 rhc creation of Hnngcul in rhc joseon era, especially ar10ngst th middle 'lass, II was unwieldv and diffi 'ulrorne .hill(Sc characrcrs were u: cd based Oil [heir 'hin 'S ' sound, ot hers ba\lJ <111 rhcrr Illl',l1llllg, .uul \OI1!C "":11' rveu grvcn IWI\' sound and meanings. Chinese chnracrers :11~o proved unsuit '.I ro

D)tnn ry civil official and scholar, which explains the purpose For creating the writing system and describe it usage: "In the winter of the year 1443, our king invented 28 characrers of proper sounds .. .and called them H unrninjeongeum.' After inventing the alphabet and writing system, Sejollg insrru .red the scholar' of rhe jiphyeonjeon 7J't!~1("The 1-1;111 of Worrhics", 1"'1), a rc cnrch ill r iture of the royal court, [0 prepare. 11 III rructional >lIidc for the new writing sy: rem. his guide was l lunntinjeongetcm, whi ch was published in the nimh lunar month of
ilK' )'C<lI'

J 446, In Ilook 102


rhe , 'ejollgsrl/()k,

in the section on the

su perior



With rhc adnptiun

H ,llg~lIl wri rinlJ. S)'Sfl'l11, Id II f~1I 011 t

r 1ISL',


lhl' much

rwelfrh 1110111"1, of the _5th year of the king's reign, it is recorded, "In this month. the king himself created all alphabet C)f twcnry-cighr symbols ... He calls it Hunm injcongeum.' These records stlgg.e t rhar .... dong himself invented the writing system a n d n am ed it'
l luurniujeongeum.

The v ririn; system pre v i o u ~I), I'd
.• "I ',f (, ,"" HunminjcOI,l\l.:lIlll i~ the ollly \ rilin~ system ill rh ' vorld fnr wh i .h rhe name 01 irs crcarnr .mr] tht" dntt: of it.. invcntio .irc specifically

rhnr Koreans
I () :11>

r r ~ I..

II' -


know n II. ngcul \ as

1I n 111 In, l' ()n ~l' 1IIII



e;rnill)!, il

an unpnrollclcd

disrinci ion



(11lg !-ociollg. rill' fourrh 1111111:lfCh or r.hc.JtlseOIl Dyna"ty 11.192-1910, 1I111'L'ih:d I [UIlI11 injcungeum. This lat! is rccurdcd in the section 011 till' n int h month IIi rhe 2S1 h : (.':1 r of rill' reign of Sejong, in look I IJ of rhe ,'it';OIl,~sillt//.: ),11 . ,. (rhl' Ann.i}, of King Sejoll(),' In 1-l'oltltl1t: chronicle or ~eionv.'~reign compiled hy orne ,l cuur o Hi..:i;tls. This is also set forrh n rhe following passage at ne end (J rhe i-Illlllllill;(}(JIIg<'11111 llaeryc (" f.xpI.1I1:lri()I1S and EX:Jll1lles of t he I'l'Opt'r Sounds for (he In<trm:rion uf rhe People"), ;' book wrtrrcn b), ,kollg .1 i (13':.16-» 7:-1), a .I ClSCOIl n-j

systems. In 144],




Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphabet

Invention of Hangeul


'While we believe rhar cjong cornrni sioned rhc jiphyeonjeon 1'0 formulare rhe Hangcul writing system, and rh:n rhe project wa compicrcd in la rc 1443 or ca r ly 1444, rhe role King Sejorig per onally played in [he development of rhe writing system i ubjecr (0 debate. \; hen <1 •. ked who invented the Hangcul \ riring
system, however, most

project all hy hirnscl f, and, likewise, the creation of all alpha! et and the Formnlarion of irs use nrc intimately linked, which is lin argument against Sejong having crafted rhe alphabet but allowed (he Jiphyeonjeon to figure out how to use ir. Theory

Koreans du

will answer,

.. Kin~

cjonf\.·· ~ hen a ked


h ..s i that



choo e between King

ejong and rhe s ·hol. rs of rhc jiph cnnieon,
how answer; \1' rthm dcnu,i,

there is disagreement ;"IS 00 \ ho, exactly, did what. The reason [ur the d isngrcern -nr is I hal there :\ rc 110 ~h:t;Jilcd records "xrhi.nin~ (he process rhrough wh ich the writing sysrcrn W:lI. formularcd. TIll' 1IIIIIIIIill;I!/J/lf,!I:/III/ Haeryc; in f:11:!, rlucsn 'r appear until three years .1 frer (he nlph.t her was created. Theory

cholar of he jiphyeonj on crnf ed thr Hangeul alphabe hut "dcdicarcd ' it to iejong, whn wns known to he ill lit the time with what today uppears to be d ia hc rcs. This is nor i In poss i b 11.', especially w hell
one considers

the ulmosr




Ill' rhe kings of



One theory has it rhar in~ Sejong created the Hangeul alphabet b)' himself. This rheury is supported hy IIH~ The Alliid/S of tln: [oscou D}'".1SIY t ~,I~'1 : '_'.r. ihc offici.ll history .. r rhc .I<1~e(J1ll'ra, which s r a i e s r h a r King Scion!;
pcrsonn Ily created 1 he 2S-It'fwr alphabet. A vn ria riuu Oil Ihi~ rhco ry is rha

[os Oil. That said, it is ..:le:11'based on his rc urnrion of a scholar's • rgU1l1enr against till' 11'W writing sysrem h,'c' p~ III liar 'ej )Ilg was :1 CO 111PCI 1.'11r


Seio!1j.!, hi mse l t I characters. r h e s c h o l a r s (If r h c

I he nCI uu

.J Iph'i~J-r.mj~ {m (OHlI(IY .! u r ro r lospi h. hOITl tln h o l a r, ;111..1 rh c rlq(lJa o! ICU JOtTIl[ PW'9.ul1 I h e o r y t h n r Sc j u n g w a s personall)' unrnvolvcd rniscs rhc qucsnon 01 why The AlIllals nf Ihe [usenn DylllSI)' would so clearly stare rhar Sejong "pl:l'sona IIy" crcarcd rhc alphahcr.

I" ,) perloo


9ci1UI,'f' ~IIIII

l in gu is tic


j iphyconjcon they would

fOl'lllllhHed he

how u s e d . HLlth

Theory 3
'It'r another
,)',1(:111 W;'l~ ::1


ha vc been criricizcd, however-c-it i di fi IIlr to believe n k ing C( lilt! ca r r y 011 f Stich

theory has il rhur the creation of rhc I lungcul wnnng project pursued in secret by the roya I family-e-nanu ly,


'l('ion~, his three


and hi, daughrer, According to i hi~ theory handled only rhe srarulnrclixa rion of Chinese



The )lphyeonjeon. or Hall d of Worthies, is usuallv creditdted with playi gam [or role In th creation of the Hangaul wri ing svsistem. But what was this body of schmolars, exacUv? The )iphyeonJeon's hlstotory goes b ck 10 the tale Gory 0 rara (9181392), but it really came ini"lO its OWl' under Kirtg Sejong, who clellpanded the Institution in 1420 and.d turned It into a real research body_ i. The actual number of offldals who seserved at the liphyeonjeon fluet ateted for a time. but it was set at 20 h in 1436. The jiphveonjeon was, ~ first and fore most. a n in titu te ded di catec to cult I'lating seholars and prproduci ng academic research. lis merest important duties were gye/eongyeon and _se0l'eon. Gveongyeo('Jn meant providing a place for the kiking and his retainers to discuss the Cenfudsn ctassics so thaI the king might it build up his Confucian education and, it was hoped, E''lgage in proper poll:1i!ics_ Seoyeon, meanwhile, was the education or the Crown Prince, \'Iho\o would eventually become king. The scholars or the Jiphyeonjeon also prerepared diplomatic documents and served as examiners for the all-lrnportrtant gwageo civil service exam. As the )iphyeonjeon was located in hElE'palace and the scholars were noted fOT their writing, some ollhem serveesd as royal secretaries. II also took the lead in academic projects, sue' as resesearchlng

into the political systems of ancient China and compiling books. For the oonvenience of the scholars, Seiong purchased or printed a good many books and stored them at the Ilphvecnleon. To young, talented officials, he granted the benefit of saga dokseo~time off from their official duties so thal they might study, often at quiet' temples In the mountatns, In this rna nile!, ma ny ta lented scholars were produ ced by the I I phyeo njecn, After Sejeng had been on the throne for 20 years, the l1phyeonjeon began to take on iI pclltlcal role as well. In 1442, Sejong= hls health b ginning to fail-estllbti hed 11 body, headed by the crown prince, to Which h could delegate administrative duties. The scholars of the Jlphyeonjeon were able 10 use this body, on which they served, to Wield poll ttca Ilnll uence. In 1443, the 11phyeonjeon became the regents of the crown prince, and in so doing attained er important political status. When the crown prince ascended to the throne as King Munjong In 1450, the political influence of the Jiphyeonjeon grew still further. just six.years later, however, it was disbanded after six of its scholars were executed In a bloody purge by King Sejo (r. 145;';-1468). The jiphy,eonjeon was around for just 37 years, but had played a trernendou role in the intellectual and scientific development of the Ioseon era. The body published numerous scholarly tracts, including works on Korean history, geography, farming, and Korean traditional medicine. It is perhaps best known, however, for its contributions to tile development of (he Korean writing system of Hangeul-just what that role was, however, is stili subject to much debate.


Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphabet

Invention of Hangeul


character usc in Korean. Pro pushed the project in secret

onerus of this II eery claim

[hat Sejong

ro avoid resistance Fmm conservative onfucian scholars and to rren ~then rh fNlwcr of rhc throne by using the new script to 1'I"<\115l<1rc I)nfuciiaJl cla SICS, eliminating the the need for a COil ucian nohiliry to run national ,I Hmrs. The problem wirh rhL rh 'ory, how vcr, is r :H (11.:: :r~)ung scholars who mack, up ihc jiphyeonjcon were lar '"I~' I ro-Scjonu, They would play s lll:1j( r role il a number If ill]l_.rl,1'1 pnojccrs rehired
to the writing

killed his own father. lhis was quite shocking !'~pecia Ily to rhe dcepl y

onfucia n King Sejong, who believed his

SYSTem, inclu ling rhc cOlilpiL"inn







I cen shill'

our of

(11 '



C!"C,I! il1~

f rhe .xplanarory t!kY would ha e Fo .. ..,ui:lrilng the writing


s)'steill. We need scientific ancl rariunal evidence un , ... dcr TO cunclusively prov~ who, l'x:wily, invented the I lungcul s,.rll't. A., 01" 110W, rhe best thing ro do would be to hase one's arguments '''1 rho: TIJI: All/lills of Ih(' ./OS[,(J11 DYllasty_ The appeals or ch()I~1S w (, opposed (he new ulpha ber, such (1- Jeong In-it .md eh,,<.: Man-ri , ,lIre als» valid

klllgdmn should be based on the onFu ian belief Ih:\( the family is rhc ba e til rhc nation. One of the 1I1"~1 unportanr rusks 01 111l' e. rly joseon era, in l.rct, was to figllre OUI' h o v to c s t a h l i s h t u nfu ci a n ethics in l (I III I1HI 11 it), life H 11 d hcauri fy social customs.

Tho S''''''~'''GIII/~,r<)..;ildo,pLlblisl1QIII" 1·18 Tho book, I
orlt"JIUAllywnuan In CllllI~~ cimmCH!F$. was Iral1s1ul£nj 11"u H"n"cul aFld illu.llilled 00 lhallha uolcnered could understand

evidence in revealing
'I." .1

"~ I 1~


who the ITUl' creator of 1-1'11 ,., eul "Was. The 111.)8r "reasonable" theory, when all es 'oo .ccd act, seems to be rhar . ejong rhe royal f;1rllil~' and the schol.ars (;f r1t· .Iipil),l'olljl.'on ;111 worked o~l:lh~r ro cre.rn. rill' wriiinj; ,y,;l' -m.

Scjong hewed immense interest in educating the common people, lu-lieving rhar by educating the masses he could build a healthy society, He believed thar the nation would only thrive if he ruled the m.isse through virtue; ir foolish commoners cornmirtcd mistakes, it w;to, because rhey didu'r know how wrong their actions were. In order huok lu-ha



prevent il repent of rill' patricide, he h<ld printed ill 1434 f1 with cnsy-ro-undcrsrand illustrations of virtuous rnodcls of VIOl'. \Xlh i lc the masses re11101 i ned ill irera re, however, i r was

So what was the prirnnry mnnva tion hehi: d tht kirl'!.'s crcatiun

hie to cd

• I uu 111on

UCl re rhem only so f:J r, Til is pro\l idcd the Ill" i 11 for the crca riun (If an easy-to-lea rn a lpha bcr For rho

Hunminjcungcum ? In the 15th century, the IlO:W rnyn I JYI1:1!ry, now nmving 011 to irs fourth king, W:1S in need of legitimacy :1 .1 111111h..; support. King Sejo ng viewed II. ngcul :1.' an imp .rr,n l pari ;:1' his nn r io nn l

people. l o r e o v c r, a r the rime when l l numinjeongcum, the Ming Dynasty

King Scj o n g i n v e n rc d had IllSI' come ro power ill

( 1t'11;1,

rna nagerncnr srrarcgy, J n rhc r 'ml year of h:~ reipl ... he re was a rat her notorious murd 'r ill which a rnvincial ":01 rnoricr named Kim 1-1\\1,'

hich caused

rhc srn ndur d prouunciaricn

• h.rr.u'tcrs to shilr from J southern style ro a northern thl' l",I,lhlishmenr 0 a new srandard prununciarion

of .hiriese style. \Xlirh of Chinese


Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphabet

Invention of Hangeul


.haracrers, there wa a need to adjust and conform the Korean pronunciarinns of Chinese characters rhar differed from the new hinese tandard. in chinese was the c mmon written language of zast Asia, as was the Case of Latin in Europe, it was necessary for Korean ro learn the: ne . tandard pronunciation. C n. equcnrly, there W:lS a need (or .1 wr iri ng s)'srCI11 1 hat could be "sed ro con form and 'xpr S5 rh ' Korean pronun .inrion of Chinese chara t '[S. Thi W<1 also a key lactcr in rhe invention of Huuminjeongeurn, which reflc ts the prevailing ir .urnsran .cs of rhar rime.


a vuru puund






which mean "ro reach the people" and 'proper sounds," rcspcctive ly. The re rrn hurnni« rn kes on a dif ercnt meaning depending on the relevant perspective. From the point of view Ill' rhc king and rhc dile d;I~S, ir \ ould 1111."111 •• to reach rhc people," people ir means "rhc

civilization at the time, and create a new writing system for the korean language wenr against popular opinion. In a way it was vunilar to the spirit of reformation hewn b rhe religious reformer .IIH] theologian Marcin Luther (1483-J546), who was the first to r r.msla re the Bible into German and rhus contribute [0 rhe unification of rhe German language. As the rnosr distinguished linguist of his time, Sejong recognized rhar til theory of hinese phonetics was fundamentally limited in its a biliry ro objectively express rhe sounds of hinese characters. The besr way to solve thi problem was [Q take the sounds of Cluncsc characters which were conventionally divided into syllables, and invent a writing system thar divided them into phonemes. And this phonemic writing -ystcrn had to be both easy to learn and ca y to rerncrnb r,

\ hereas Irom rill' perspe 'IiI'I.' u the conunun people learn" or "the l1t'opk' use."

Thus, rhe purpose h 'hilld i hc invention \Jf Hangcul e::111 di fer somewhnr depcndin~ 011 \ hose point of view is considered. Prom rhe pcrspecrive () the people, it would he "d1l' sounds rhat P 'ople from all regions rna know .ire rhc propn MIIJI1J~:' :IS is tared in nn l':l rl)' i\rI ing Dyn.lsi y record, rh U~. 111/111//111;«',mgt'lIIlI 1)1.\) 11~ hOI h "proper sound., 01 rhe k-111.·r~ lI'1;e.l hy Ih~' Ill"opl,'" and "prnper ..ounds of the lcrrer-, IIq·d to write our 1,lll)!,I!:lt.:l'," Ahove ;111. 'icjOI1I': ..:rl.';lIl:d H.mgcul 10 mnke it c.ivicr fI,,' ,III "r 11" Iwork 10 learn ro relld and write. or norc i~ the I'KI rh.u ~1I1LC tilt" Hungeul wririm; "y~I't'1l1 i~ .1 universal wfirinJ?, ,YMt:m rhnr C'1I1 express nor (1I11~' [he s<1l1nJ~ 111' Chinese 'h:lr;]'ter~ hur ;1lso rlu- sounds of all wur k] langll:1Xl' • ir is more sysrern, In an
;It:e wa ~ olll)1


and illclu~II'e

than allY other


dOlllinated hy ;1 • ino-cenrric world view, rhc idl':) that ir proper lor Koren us to :1 ba ndun thl:' lI~\' II clu ~~iC:ll .hinesc, the COIllJT1011 wrirrcn IUl1guagc of the F.:1~r sian sphere of






King Sejong the Great



Cha~)ter Four


became a wandering rra veler, the other a Buddhist pen ing the way for Sejong to ascend to the th [one in

Augu t 1418 at the age of 20.


National Defense Scjong wasted no time in UTilizing his powers as king. In 14~19, the second year f hi. reign, he launched an exp dition against Japanese pirutes Oil the island of Tsushima, quickly conquering the island and hringing the pirates ro heel. He also e rabli hcd a 'erie of fort an border stations along Korea's northern frontier to protect Koreans .1gainst marauding ,hinese and Manchurian nomads. In so doing he established roughly what is today I orea's northern her IeI' with China. In addition, he supported developments in Korean military technology, parricu I"rly with the usc of gunpowder and cannons.


IIthe case of KinA Sei()rl~, (h~' fourth king Ilr tilt' joscnn eru, the .IPI1 ,Fllirlll "The Crenr" i, no ~t:l(-intJlIlgl'rH ·)(;lK.L:l'r:-rti()ll. Ruling rom .111X [0 1450, Scjollg was Ihe CpiWllll: of' rhc COli Iucia 11 so.:hol:H·kil1)!" oVl'rs~'l';rlg a .uhur.il goldl'l\ .igc or Io.:arnirrg and social




nC1I1. Olle 01 till' most r.:nlj~d1l<..r'll·d men "I' h is ngc, he had inicrc: t~ c)(rl'l1ding f;lr bC)'lInd r()lirio.:~ and im o rhc rualrns or science, culture nud lin!-tlIi:-til'~. I lis grearcsr .1I.'hll'vl'IIll'lll-;lnd rill' mo sr nkV;1I1t to rhi~ hook-was [he crl'arinll 01 til(' Ilangelli




'C'jnn' was horn ill IJY7 the third Mill of King, T,1L'jong, loscon's cllngClr-if Pl', haps M;,u;hiav<:lli:ltl-IhirJ moua rch. Or:litl<lr'il)I, rhe prl"l'llo.:e 0 I two older hrorhers wou ld hn ve precl udcd rhc srudiou.: <.;jollg (rom :hl:cnliing to rill' rhn nc. Forrun<lreiv (or- him hOI eVl' his brothers n;..:ognizt·u hoth his 'kills uu d ;hcir thereof, Both jllll'lIcioll<lll) gor rhc111~e1VC:~ b:lI1i~hcd from rill: rOY:11







King Selong assembl jiphyeonjeull IIphyeonjeon NO/U}50i/heol publishes

Mil itary e~ped IIi 0 n aca inSI Ihe Ma nc hu ta u nc hed



of the for the

Hunminjeongeum ("The Proper Sounds the Instruction or the People")



the larrners' nln1unac Creation of Hangeul


Korean ccurt schotars begtn aslrological

completed Medical encyclopedia

compiled His health deteriorallng.Klng Sejong turns over dav-to-dav Painting ot the prociamatloo Seokbosongjeoi ("Episodes

I. I


S jong i, born 01 King Iaeiong


the third son

administration Prince,

to the Crown

Irom the Ufe of Buddha"), Worinclleongangjigok ("Songs of the Moon Shining on a Thousand Rivers") and Donggukjeongun ["Thl:' Ccnect Rhym~s of lhe Easlern COli 11 Iry") published King Sejong dies at age 53


Becomes Grand Prince Chungnveong Sl'jong named crown prlnce, the ~,1me year. King Taeiollg abd.rares and Sejong a~cendG to the throne. Krng S~long launches expedition to demov pirate bases on Isushrrna Island

Yongbieoc!leonga published


of the

Or.lgons Fiving to H~aven")

King Selong r ormnlsvions prcdurtion Brilliant of maps 01 kor a

sctenttst lang

Yeong·sil invents world's first rain gauge




Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphabet

King Sejong the Great


Science and Technology
in fact, that Sejong would leave some of his most lasting contribucions. Sejong's reign represented an age of scientific exploration and discovery. Recognizing talent when he saw it, he becam a patron of [ang Yeoug-sil, who rose from the bottom of Joseon Korea's social ladder to become one of the leading scientists and inventors in Korean history. With the king's support, Jang made a number of notable advances in Korean science and technology, inventing brilliant new designs for water docks, armillary spheres, sundials, and, perhaps mo t importantly, the world's first rain gauge. Sejong sought to use science and technology to better the lives of his subjects. He commissioned the writing of the Nongsajikseol ("Straight Talk on Farming"), a farmers' handbook that contained

It was in the field of science and technology,

the latest scientific farming methods gathered throughout the country. He also reformed the Korean calendar-then based on the latitude of the Chinese capital of Beijing-to more accurately reflect Korean conditions, and oversaw the writing of treatises on Korean traditional medicine.

Sejong took an active interest in the cultural development of his nation. His most important contribution in this regard was the development of the Korean alphabet, Hangeul, but he did more than this. At Gyeongbokgung Palace, he established the jiphyeonjeon (see p34), a panel of Korea's greatest scholars as selected by Sejong himself. This joseon-era think tank participated in a variety of scholarly projects: it was this group, in fact, that may

Center: The Angbuilgu, a sundiat crafted during the reign of King Sejong the Great Right: The Jagyeongnll, a water ctock invented by Jang Yeonq-sil in 1434


Hangeul: Korea's Uniq ue Al..c folohab!O

K1ng Sejong th@ Great


have been rcsponsibleale ror rhc fir t t,-,~mlll rion 01 the Hang 'Ill wri rin g s ys rc III _ Se101: g als« pe rscn Ji!" c.. In pos J n n um: .r 11 J lircrnry and tchol.rrly y tracts, ;111' t:'-'CI1 CI C:( :111 iu:,c;"sl in 1 U,I', ove rseei ng rh c devci()r.'plll",'n of musical mn:1~ion. rh c itnprcverne r o( mu .ical insrrurnem nr dt:~i~n~ :md rh '{;:"p: siriun ()f 'n:hc~lr:d


Soclat Justice
cjong sought r< li)!lm.rcn rhc tax . irdc
"'II I he I

asnnt 1101 ul:

I jlOn,


whum he r ·!tarJcJ as.~ I I.;' roun a~H'" 1)1 II" nu n. Saic I. t· kll1~. "The common PCI k';_e 'Ire till' fml1H,latiulI lit .lIly co mrrv, J( is I Illy when this fuunduuon :::n Ii ,rrOIl~ [:1.11 a.:. UI rry mny he Hahlt, ;1110 prosperous." I t._. ~~ ra I~ 1hl!,), 'J .1 Ik'~i. k tJ x .. de Ih;1 t \', 111.1 .d "II~C r.ixe-, 1111 f;II'I1lCrS 111 I' h:I(,J 11111 ..". He ~I '" .I~ 'd l~r.1 vurpluscs (IJ 111 SLlprmn the desrirure . Sejong the Linguist
\,\·'llIIc !:><,jl1ng
Ill,], . :h....

a deep knowledge of linguistics. According ro the archives boldly rejected a letter of opposition HI Hangeul penned by scholar h DC M a 11-1"i ('t'{' pH·" who cl aimed rha t rranslariug rhc sounds of Chinese charucrers inro Hangeul was ab urd, $cjol1g asked whether :hnc under rood phonetics. and whether he knew how many rone and letters classical h incse had. I-lc noted rh logi "31 flaws in Owe's linguistic value system, while precisely pointing ou rhc limits ro rhe ldu system. his r flecrc 1 Sejong's research into ldu all I his broad knowledge of lingui ri .s. lmrncdiarcl after rhc crcati: 1\ ot Hungeul 'clong ordered Ihe cum position of the DUI1p.gllkjcongllll ("Till: Correct Rhymes of the Ea stern COl! 11tI'Y"), Ko I'C;1's 11 prouuncia ri()11 diet ion ~r)" Ill!h Iish cd rsr ill the king's Mille by scholars Sill Suk-ju, Choc l-Iang, and 1}:Hk Pacng-nyeun ill 144H, This required the translirerariun or;l good deal of Chinese pronunciations into Hangeul, Yer according to :1
of his reign, Sejong

efr h ,hi

ornpli ... mcnt , less \ 'dl h known l' rI' • fn..:::r rh at he ' 'as J. urear Im~li t. From rh . rime ut hIS y o ut h , h<- h a .in u 11("11" n o n inr(r~"S1 in ;lL:id~IlH '" r"1~'r h even ,I r~''':(,rei <If 111'; I.uh..-r I "rI'id ; in!!. I~i 111 t( rO:;1,1 :111.1 l"ak ir g :Iwar Ii is

I. C...:IIIS':

h: hId



"II day .1'10 niglu. -hI<. 'm ..:l,S'; rhar he : '.\',1:> a r··,1;.l:- i;lirly wel <':'::1hli he . i-i rcami ;!. by r l rime ilL was a






11;':;. S..:'jOllg


Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphabel


for word wrirr -n hy Sin Suk-ju, (he cholar received ea h and every word from 'ejong himself, Accordingl surrni

approval for , one could none

I"h;]1 rhe greatest

other than Scion).!. hirnscl



gy scholar of rhe :lg,c was

On October 9. 200.9, The Story of Ki I)g Selong exhibit opened LIp In Seoul's Gwanghwamun Plaza. It is a cutting-edge display that teaches visitors about King Sejong the Great's democratic ideals and the creation of Hangeul. Besides Hangeul, the exhibit also displays the variety of scientific tools the king invented. A special exhlbit, the Cia-Cia Hangeul Story Hall, explains the Cia-Cia's adoption of Hangeul as an official alphabet and features photographs of tocallslanders learning the Hangeul script since Its adoption, Foreign visitors can make full use of the exhibit with an audio information system that provides inFormation in English, Japanese, Chinese and Spanish . • Hours 10:30 am 10 10:30 prn. Closed Mondays· Getting There (,\ mghwamun Stalion. line 5. Exit z, Look for the statue of King Sejong . • Tel (02) 399-1114-6

!-'einl1J.\ died HI 1450 ;I[ the ngc nf 51: he had reigned for nhout 32 'ctt rs. lin ort unu rcly, I he sr:dlll i I)' n n d e u l igb run men r t h a r .haracrcnv 'J hi.. rciun lid not cnrirelv 'xr 'nd h 'y(md hi.; denrh, His fir>;1 ~OI1, Munjong, dll:ti lUSt two' 'ar. .ilrer he rook rbe ihron '. He

tnllm xl hy <;'innh'~ yo II II).: ,u,r'lndsol1 II! the throne nr rhl' :1j.!.(' of 12. Afri:r rhn-e

)Il':ll'~ Oil

who ascended




,'-;\'jo,whn-whilt· he would 11 rovr hi msr-l ;1n exec pl";on:.lll), 0,:;1 h le k i n).\-:1 )1,1 ho Ii~h cd rhe • 1 i phyeonjcon and executed six o(rrs scholars for sedition. Still, SCtOl1g's m:1JlY cultural and scientific achievements cunrinucd to live 011, mosr 110[;1hl),the l Iungeul writinj; system. which is used

crrhrown I y




h all Korean



this day.


Spread of Hangeul






Chapter Five



l l.mgeul hada limited eHeer on "rnainstrcarn" Korean society in the [oscon era-for rhe political and cultural reasons illu rrrated above, 11 wus largely ignored by rhe dire class, Where i l' di d ha ve all Impact, however, was in female society (and women's lirernturn) , urnung t commoner , and in the literary genre of novel writing. The women of elite hou 'holds wok to rhe new alphaher, and this would have a pro nun j 'ffeet on women', poetry and prose, rhmlll!h Han)!f'I1I. which W01S invcnred hnsccl nil rhc ill,';l rhnr ;111 ..uhjecrs=-including worn n-should know how to read uud write, I he literary life of womenfolk experienced many changes, Women. who wert often nor given till' kind of cducarirm rhnr would allow them to usc Chinese characters with ease, were nhle ro enjoy :1 Ilwrb freer written culture with Haugeul. In the my;]1 court, male retainers would send reports in Hangeul ro the queen, who would respond in kind in l langeu l; accordingly, the alphabet became an rrn p o rr a nt means or
cornrnuruca rro n.
,1 11 d cx III 0 r C.
\V ()

first, 'Korea's

nor JH III' l' parriculu rty pop rlar amongst I rualc=-cliu-. The invention of the new -Illng sysrcm wn-, 11111 mivcrsallv welcomed hy Korea' u .onfucian ill". For ~OI11l', I ill.' l"bjt'l:lioll W;IS idc. louical. in 1444, the mfuci.m schulnr ,llld <J,rfici;11 Choc 1\ l.in- r i denounced the creation 'l.lIlgclll diu 1l:;lI"IICd-;llll
,I IWI\' script , callin g ir ;1 shameful dcpa rr ur« fro m .hincsr; "ili7;1I"iol1:11 srn n da r ,J~ a n d ;] rnuruck iru; of rhe way: or r hc rh.Jr1;11 U. , I r I ~ 111:1 iCl'l'd, 11UII'l'W!; that some of the clue

101"(' 111ell

c h a ngcd

lcrt e r s in

l Li ug c u I. Evc n men uverl 1-1.1 ngcu 1 til write
lvrrers to rh c ir I11:Hril.:I .1;1 ughrers or brllii}, f.H

111il-:l1I have hccn due In te:lrs of irs social their I'U,iliol1' .uul power (111eIn their Ulopoly lin lill'ml.'), ;1111.1 1";1rl1illg~ H,111g,l'ld~rcarl:d ru improve • Jjvc~ 01 rhc cotumon peopl'-miglll h;IVCbeen :1 rhrear [0 break
1'0 P:K[,


l inngeul

""rca's ellre


H 11H1l1C1IWI}, lined I-bll~elll\

'" ......

1.1I1"1:r "ill~~-Yt'IlI1~al1gll11 in pnrticulur-e-evcn ~rlld)' :1111.1 11'0', E"<cJI later; us the Hangcul scnpr
_ ••


...... ,~.,


•• J ......••

r_ •• , ••• _~



u~.n_.. \II\...


r.,.1",,-.' ....









unril she Dru-hrm Fmpirc


of the );\1"<' 19t1

.I '\Hly lUrh ccnru rics,


Hangeul, Korea's Ulique Alphabel

Spread of Hangeul


away. A growint number of books, roo, wen: published ill Hangeul for women reade rs, pl a y ing a major rule in spreading and maintaining rhc writing system. The effect the Hangeul writing sysrern had on the lower classes was Hull' profoind, By breaking rhe stranglehold the elite class held over learning aad knowledge, the alphaber radically changed the nature of larer JOSCOI1 society. For insrance, peasanrs-e-previously kept ignOT;)nr'--wuld now read farmers' almanacs and adjust their fa rm ing rncrhr ds to rh c season s, They could rca d books on medicine; InUC(U, each hou chold usua] I)' had at lea t ~onwone 1'[<1IIICJ in the bi1sic medical arts. Few societies of irs ~1g;C could boast (jf such an CdW;~HC(1 peasantry. h was hugely due TO rhe abiliry to accum 1I1:ne a lid 11,1 nd down k nowlcdgc in w ri rren f('Jrm-th~lnks rtl rhe easy-m-h-arn writing sysrcrn-« rhar Korea's prcJ ornina nel y ru r.11society could, in I hi: 20rh (emury, rna ke rhe un prcccdcnrcdly ra pid transform:l1 ion in ro :\11 indusrr ia I a ud

novel writing really bega n to rake off. The writing of novels in Hangeul, in turn, promoted the spread of the new writing system, so much so thar by rhe 19[h century there existed a large class of Koreans who could read and undersran d Hangeul, from highranking stare officials ro women and even servants and slaves. Enforcing Confucian Virtue
Despire irs role in freeing the peasants, lower classes and women from ill ircracy, the new alph a bet con versel y strengthene I the position of the Korean monarchy, The first work written in l-langcul was the YOlIgbieoc/uumga ("Songs 0 f rhe D ragcns Flyi ng to Heaven"), a collection of songs rhar extolled the foundarion of the juseon kingdom and the joseon royal lineage. This was, in, essence, :1 form of national promotion, nnw readily digestible by the masses rhan ks to rhe new, easy-to- learn a Ipha her,

d igira l



a v ib r a nr

kn ow lcdg c
a lso


The sprca d of H a ngcul

possi hlc Ihe adoption
, I'

of un iversa


ed uca rion,

boosting the kl1'ni\detl~c level of the 1'1<1 ri 0 11 and :111, )1.1' [ nA the p o l i r i c a l s y s rc rn of democracy ru t;1 cc fOOL

· .~." ~i. J
1'It:!l1! n,.•.qljii..~~.\ffil.~. ~ JJi_~~¥t", ...qlb~':iJl
'I 'L. !.' ,1'<;.11 ";,,'~R.NI\tl),ol ~, Itt. ......J.;!C 1(0 l;u ",~ ~~!(~ ~,,~:r~ '!? ,,:...., ~ J,:r.",~' ill~ 1<11. "'Ii 'ttl 11~ I i"Y !j~,.,1~4 "lI\}( ••~;~ #. !;'.. h 1Ii1l1l". r+UI~ -It lif" I iPillil .'l' ~d'0 {Ij;"~ 1tA"'<.~"i~"iIf ~ @:II'$ I!o.t.,,~ ~ll.·' t,u,~>t.~. r

,..., ,"fit". t.,"". t '. :~!·l~1~t11

II ...

Novel Writing
One of the mnn- infcn;sring c ffe!.:ts 11 f rhe (rca (ion of the H a ngcu 1 writing sysren: \'/:IS rhar it spurred the development of tilt' novel ;l~ ~ genre of lir\'nlWrc .. This is 11M to say rhar there were no novels ill Korell prior ro Hangout. There were, hUI most were myrhological fa les written i n cla ssicn 1 Cll incsc or rn irnick iIIg the literary style ()f ell; n esc 11o vcis, A frer the creation 0 f Ha!1 gc u I, however, K()rca n

~t.It,hll::F.Il"'~!>.I:.'OI 'i......... II> ~t:I!!" 1\1 ~ 1t '" lIl.lIi1.jl'; iI(,Mi j~ ·L( ..
I II an 01101110 wopa>tala

Iho new

wrnl n 0 "yslom,

KInIJ 5<>1 cng l)ul,I1Shed

a number 01 books, star II r>g III 14~ 7

T COITI mnn people ca mn to n:njnv ren ding I hm IflUI novels su~h as T/IO SW!}, ~I Chunl,yatrg. I In~' fumy abeut 11ycnlll~ mon lrom afl [lnsh:H;rBIJC t 1111llylod U1(' (InIJ~ntr.rr ol .II !11$:.:1Qn9 (Tom~lr.J
~lrHEJU.~Hltln ,jurll1fT 11H' JCltHJClll


with Yonfll'it'or.iluong" I"SonG' 01 lI'e DI~~"ns Flylllg In HDfMm''I, Ihe 1",;1 boOk P lIl~i Ghod 1<1 H n"QOu I, wi lid' p",lsod III~ fIOh;"" "01"" IS <\1 Ino J nseon Oynl!l:Rtv ~Ir I r.1 ius IIU..J~ tuous ;:Lrlce:31 n rs
" GYUI [) n<1[Ink




Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphaoe1

Spread of Hangeul


Hangeul al:;c served to prose:lyriz.e and enforce Confucian virtue. In 1434, Ki ng Sejnng comnissiollcd r he p uhlicari on of the Samgaughl1(mgsildo 1'' ' lllusrrsi t ions o f rhe Vi niles of the Three l~onds"I, an illustrared guide rO Confucian norms. As the text was i 11Chi nese character's, h n W('II'C 1', it was of Ii rni ted effectiveness outside the literate clire. ln 14'S I, it was rranslared into Hangeul, making ir QIl!' of the rirs t wnlrks published in the new writing

Another major effect the new writing system had was to standardize till' Korean pronunciation (If Chinese characters. One of the first h .. cks printed using Hangeul was the Donggukjeonglll1 ("The l orrccr Rhymes of the Eastern Country"), published in 1448. The characters, k orca-e-ir: sought to II n if~' pr on II nciarions of Ch i n ese which there was a great deal of confusion in rhc Mint; Dynasry carne 0 power in China hringing with it ,1 shift from southern Chinese pronunciations to norrhern Chinese ones. Using the pronunciations of the Chinese ... ng and ling Dynasties ~1S reference, rhe dictionary used Hangeul o l hnracrers to exp ress rhe "pro per" prol1 unci arion of Ch i nese characters. Given char Chinese borrowings constitute some 60% of I lu- Korean lex icon, the: standard izarion of pronuuciu rions was a ruajur development.

about [368,

Not everyone was happy with the creation of the Hangeul alphabet. The most noted of Hangeul's opponents was (hoe Man-ri, Ihe deputy minister for edutalion, In 1444, Hlle scholar-olflclal, ~long with other Confucian scholars, submitted a \lfI'ritten appeal 10Sejong stating his oppnsitlon to Hangeul. Choe 'Ita (Hi's appeal contains his objections to King Sejong the Great's crea ion of the Hangeul writing system. Seen from a modern perspective, rnuchi of the basis of Choi's argument might be hard to accept, but his objections are taken a reflecting the opinion of much Korea's lntellectuat eli'e at the time.


The Hangcul writing
hroughr inro offici;11
'YS[(':111 L1S('


was filially in 1H94 as

P,HI of a larger ruudernizurion scheme .111.1 in an e fro rr ro pr o more KorC:11l nulcpendence from Chinese i 11 flucnrc. k urcan clerncnrary schools began lIsil1)!, 1I,II1gclIi [("XtS in [895, and in 1:-l96 rhc /)Ollgllip Sl n ut u n n c w s pu pc r was

Pelltlon 01 Ci1o" 1.1Rn~rl







Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphabet

Spread of Hangeul


printed in both Hangeul nd nglish, olonial rule in Korea had a profound influence on the development :11Ic.1 prcud of the Hangeul writing system. With [oreigu influence in Korea growing in the late 19th century and early 10th ccntu ry, the class structure of the joseon era-a major impediment ro tile spread 0 Hnugcul=-collapscd: the so-called Gabo Rcforrn of I N94 saw the legal abolishrneru of Korea's class system. Th· a ho Rc urrn also did a w: y with the once allestablished, J: pancse

imporranr Confucian civil ervice exam, or guiageo: the exam, based on China's imperial civil ervice exam, tested one's knowledge nf rhe Chinese classics and served [0 reinforce the position of Chinese characters and classical Chinese in Korean society. Classical Chinese also proved unsuited ro coping with the rapid change that were transforming Korean society in rhe early 20th ccnrur ; Han reul 011 rhe other hand, uired modernization perfectly thank ro its flexibility, ease of LJ e and wide readership ba e.






Playing a major role In the development and promotion of the Hangeul alphabet Is the Korean Language Society, founded in 1908 by the pioneeri ng Korean linguist lu Si-gyeong (1876-1914) as the National Language Research Society. For over a century, the society has worked tirelessly to protect, standardize and spread the writing system, especially during the difficult years of the lapanese colonial era. II was the Korean Language Society, in fact, thai coined the lerm we currently use for the alphabel-Hangeul-In the early 19105. Born in Hwanghae Province in whal is now North Korea in 1876. lu moved to Seoul in 1887 and was intrigued by the new Western learning that was [ust entering Korea at Ihe Lime. After studying linguistics at some of the new West.ern-style schools, he found work In 1896 with the Dongnip Sinmun (Tile IndependenO, Korea's first Hangeul-only newspaper, founded by independence activist Sea lae-pll. Realizing the need to standardize the alphabet, he formed with his colleagues the Korean language System Society in l886. In 1897. Sea was sent into exile to the United States, and lu left The Independenllo write for another newspaper and serve as a Korean instructor for the American missionary W. B. Scranton, th founder of today's Ewha Womans University. lu continued 10 study even while working as an instructor at several different schools; he also Tan a Korean language class on Sunday to teach

and promote the Hangeul alphabet, In 1908, with japan's seizure of the Korean Peninsula impending, he Founded the National Language Research Society to study an d pro teet the Korean language and its writing system. In a series of works published straight up to his death, he theoretically systematized the Korean language and the Hangeul alphabet. Just as Importantly, his schools produced a number of prominent Korean language scholars. In 1921, several of his Former students formed the the Chosun Language Research Sial". of Ju SI'Qveong Sociely. In 193), the society published a unified Hangeul orthography, which today serves as the basis for the standard crthcgraohv of both North and South Korea. In 1949, the society adopted the name by which it is currently known, the Korean Language Society. Today 1t is one of Korea's preeminent bodies on Ihe Korean language, and is responsible For,among other things, .15 ernbling dictionaries of the Korean language, publishing academic Journals. and conducting the Korean language ProfiCiency Test (KlPT) for I • rners of Korean. Since the Liberation of Korea From colonial rule, It has 'Ilso promoted the exclusive use of Hangeul (as opposed to the mixed use of It.mgeut and Chinese characters) and the use of purely Korean words rather 111.111 eh i nese loan wards.


Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphabet


Classical Chinese also proved unsuited to communicating with and persuading the masses, the overwhelming majority of whom could not read Chinese characters. The Dcmgni]: Sinmun, written as it W~lSwithout Chinese characters, showed itself to be remarkably influential, too. Reforms in the alphabet were undertaken in 1921 and 1930. The lIn nncu l writing sysn-m itself was standardized in 1912. The Korean Language Research Society (later called the Hangul Society) undertook still further reforms with the release of Standardized SY;;/I'II/ ()/ I !.ll/glIl III I C)U. TillS l.u tcr nIoru: became the basis for the modern orthographies of both North and South Korea. The l l.ingcul writing system was banned in Korean schools in the later stages of the Japanese colonial era, hut Korea's liberation from colonial rule in I '145 W~lSnccomp.uiicd hy ;1 return of the Hangeul alphabet. With the division of the Korean Peninsula into North and South Korc.i, the scp.t rn tr regimes undertook separate spelling rcIorms. The l.isr major orthouru phy n-Iorm in South Korea was undertaken by the Ministry of Educ;ltion ill I '1~g.

unique system of writing, completely unlike that of China, produced by Koreans for the Korean language. How many languages can make such a boast? Even if this pride might not have heen immediately felt by Joseon Korea's Sinocenrric elite, many of whom opposed Hangeul as barbaric and dangerously subversive, the writing system would become a symbol of national identity, especially during the dark years of the Japanese colonial era.

At the time of Hangeul's creation, the yangban (aristocrat) literati, who were accustomed to toadyism toward China, did not welcome the arrival of the new writing system, calling it inferior to classical Chinese. For this reason, they referred to texts written in classical Chinese as "true writing" (jinsc()), while those written in Hangcul were said to he "vulgar writing" (con/nun). They also thought of Hangeul as a writing system for women, due to their adherence to a male-dominated society, and referred to it as "woman's writing" (amkeul). In addition, it was spurned as "children's writing" (ahactgeul) because it was used by children who could not learn classical Chinese. It was even called "out-writing" (dwitgclI/), suggesting that it was meant to be read at the outhouse or toilet. With the advent of the enlightenment period and the launch of Korea's modernization effort, the Korean people rallied around a national spirit and placed a high value on the uniquely Korean writing system of Hangeul, which was referred to as "proper sounds" .md "the national script." The individual who created the term "Hangcul" was Ju Si-gyeong (1876-1914), a Korean linguist. What had first been called "Hunrninjcongcum," and had been referred to hy various names over the years, was thereafter known as Hangeul. In North Korea, it is called Joseongeul ("Korean writing").



Today, Hangcul consists of 14 simple consonants, five double letters, one consonant cluster, six simple vowels, four iotized vowels, and one diphthong. Over the centuries, a number of consonants .uid vowels lx-c.unc o hsolcr« and were dropped. The most frequently encountered of these is " the arac a ("lower a"), as in 1" which can still he found in a number of brand names but has generally f.rllcn into disuse in favor of the "a" ( 1 ) sound. Despite its cold reception and the changes forced upon the alphabet by the vortex of history, Hangcul has now firmly secured its place as the writing system of the Korean people. The alphabet is expected to develop still further, based on its native creativity and scientific excellence, in the digital information society of the future. The new writing system also boosted Korea's sense of independence and national pride. After all, here was a completely






Hangeul In the Digital Age




wrrh people from around the world and
and knowledge.

hare all manner of


Chapter Six


Koreans in has been considerably narrowed. ".IIt',1 is a world leader in cell phone technology; while the speed wn h which u ers can exchange text me ages, via cell phone I., \ 11,ld~, is unquestionably the fastest in the world. Like Hangeul, I 'I'l'.111 cell phone keypads are based n a principle of adding II Ilk", to basic consonants a rid vowels, which means thar a "'IIIIIII,d number or' keys arc needed [Q create the entire alphabet,
01111 II 11111'11," t

led society,

Thanks to today's in formationlive in a world in which the gap

ual randards

11.1II)!l'ul i the most efficiently mechanized Ih,.I, sinular

writing system in East rypewrircr rhar were

od:!}', Korea i\ .1 dynnrnic counrry lhat 1'():1~IS curt ing-e dgc in lormnriun n-chnolugy, .in :u11':111(;(.;(1 cultu nIl in fr:1SITlI~rLlrC,and rhe a hiliey 1'0 product: exec] I io n n ] l()rll1~ :If culr ur c. AI' rhe fUUIHb rion of I'll i~<'::1 h iii I)' is rill' H :mgclIl wri i11f!,system. St'j Dllg '8 pn crcauvuy centuries :lgU, applied ;t~ a praclical s Iminll ru overcome langu,l):\l' di Hiculr n-s , i~ IlOW rC""'lllllg Its true value ill r h e wfnrmat ron-r .ri('!lIed '''ciel v of dw _I 'r ecru !Jr, . The O:IIl11hll\:1ri(1I\ 01 (hc~c vowels and I,:tlns! tUIlIS III rill' iniriul, flll'dial, :lnd fill:ll PCl~lIi()II" ena hl« dh' 'rc;lflon of ;'l s dlahary. II;lIIgtltl's cxccllcncc bccnrncs c ve n mur c l''';til-nr when rh e 1II1plil'<HioJ1 of mod 'fli priming rcchniqucs is cunsidcr xl.
KorC;l \, nhil il)' ro transmit diAil<ll content f:lsrcr than an)' miter country in the world i~ rhc rcsulr Il. rhe H:lTl~L'lIlwriting S, M 'Ill, 11'111..:11 is idrnlly suited ro LIM': with digim I tcchnol"A.)', Thruugf rhe


it was po. ible ro design Hangeul [0 English typewriters. At 11["c. Hangeul's characteristic method of combining letter to lorm syllabic blocks made it mort' lill ficulr to incorporate Hangeu I I vpcwrirer: inro everyday life than h.id been the l:~ISC wrrh English llr~'writer,. Bur when ornpurcr ,ofrw::trc in r hc 20lh ccn r u ry
became limning capnhle of automnricnlly Hangcul's syllabic I locks,

the mconveniencc of mechanical 1 I .1 n ~ t' U I r y p c \V r ire r ~ W a

Imcrner. Koreans


an intellectual fr .cdorn thur enables them



Hangeul. Korea's unique Alphabet

Hangeul in the Digital Age


elirninarcd. That is, a computer ;111 lo~icalll' calculate whether 0 I '/nv,l follnwing a 7~ [ga I should form rhe syllabic block 7/ [g:lOg] or be parr of a new syllabic block, a in rhe ase of 7t..2.. [gao], lith calculations arc possi hie because Hangeul was dc. igned so that

......~ ......~ ......~

syll<1bles beginning wirh a vowel sound would have <1silent 0 as a placeholder in the initial position, Unlike other alphabetic wriringsysrern , J langcul has a irni lar n umh -r of crm so na nt s and VnI c!s. hus, \ hen dc. iHnin~ a kcyhon r d it is po s ihle IU a r rn nge '011"o11,1111 1111d vowels ') II II J1l'! l"i\..III), .I"lglllllg 14 kq'~ II) Ihl" vunson.uu» 011 I he lett and 12. keys 10 the vowels 1111 lhl' rlhhL Hccuusc Korean yllnbles arc co m p o scd of s u cccs s ions of 'onson,lllts u n I v o w c ls this ar ra ngcmcnt allows ror n keyboard thai IS l·'l~}' III usc horh ..nAIIIl i""l)' .\IId ergonomically, Thus, nor only I.~ r Inngculc<1s), to learn, hut ir IS :11'>(1 C:l~r [() prod lin' H~I geu 1 n do c u rn c n rs u~il1~:l computer k e y h o a r d w i r h o u r <lily special
r.rining. These ndvunrngcs ha rened rhe populnriz.iuon of computers and rhc hncrucr in orca, one f. cror in rhc 1l:1liill1\ rapid development as .1 l'OIllI1HlIliC,lI jnll,~ technology power.




~ ~ ~ ~
..L J.l.

2 C 0







......... .........






allowed the Korean cell-phone






€>'tc-~ .r?\:....

h idencc (If this is the widespread usc of SMS [short .,,,rvice) ,1IId derivative products by )'oung Kor .ans,





" "


Cell phnm- kl')'P:ld~ h.ivc f:u fewer kl'} ~ rh.u: UIIl1 purer keyboards, bur
since rherc are only eight basic letters in Huugcu! hefort' uddi 11).: strokes or

co m hinmg l crt e rs , s e n d l ng re x r rn c s su g c s nn :J Cl'11 phone u s in g
l l a ngc u l

m o rc couvcnicnr


acccssil lc than 1<; rhc case \ irh orher a lph.t hct s .. his case of usc and

Kores 's leading cdl phone makers applied rhe basic principles of l l.iugcu l to th e i r re x r-i n pur me t huds. On e p r i nci p lr rha r is p.irricul.rrly nurewurrhy i\ rhe "heaven, eurr h , ,Ind humanity" principle. Hangcul is comprised of 14 ccrrsonu nt and 10 vowels, hut nor ~II vowels are ShllWI1 Oil Korean cell phone kC:YP"lJS. Only rile Illtl', ba ic and simplest vowels arc shown, lind the rest are achieved iI\ .idiling srrukes. When Ha ngeu l was invcn rcd ill 1443, (he "Uh:qHS () hen CII, carrh and humanity were given shape in the dl1Ct· hasic vnwcl s of , ,and I. orne 'cll phone kcypa Is III"pl,l)" onl) these three hnsic vowels, while others add strokes ro 111.·", three vowels and di pkl)' 1 (1 + . ), 1 ( . + 1 ), ..... ( • +-),.-

Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphabet

The Korean team of Bae Yeong-ho and Ha Mok-min won the LGMobile World Cup, a cell phone speedtexting competition held in New York in January 2010_ In the tournament, featuring teams from 13 countries, contestants copied a piece of scrolling text into their handsetswhile the languages differed, the number of characters was the same. This showed that Hangeul, which can express more sounds within the same space. is ideally suited to the mobile environment.

Auto navigation systems (GPS) in Korea, like computers and cell phones, also use keypads that efficiently form syllables with additional strokes. © Seo Heon-gang

(-+ . ),-, and by international cell phones,

1 _ These

efficient keypad input methods, protected also act as entry barriers against foreign




The development of the 21st century information-oriented society is accelerating the creation of more forms of communication, more information, and more original thought. In the process, the demand for efficient linguistic information management technology that goes beyond computer and Internet technology is increasing. Linguistic information management is, in a word, the ability for computers to understand human language, allowing the embodiment of human linguistic knowledge in a computer system so that computers can

handle intelligent tasks that once could only be performed by humans. Not only can computers handle tasks such as answering queries like "In what year did King Sejong invent Hangeul?" and automatically summarizing and categorizing documents, but there are already technologies for translating any and every language, which are being improved to be more intelligent. In this way, it would seem that Hangeul's status in an age of digital civilization that transcends borders and languages and brings the world together as one will continue to improve. Since the time of its invention, Hangeul has made use of the digital theory of "features," so it is well suited to the thoughts and behavior of "digital nomads" who favor mobile equipment. Also, since Hangeul is a phonemic writing system with the characteristics of a syllabic writing system, it may well serve as a bridge between typical alphabets and syllabic writing systems.


system for numerous languages. In fact, it is an ideal multilingual writing system in terms of its structure, efficiency, and ease of learning. For the past several decades, UNESCO has focused its


efforts on the elimination of illiteracy by supporting numerous projects around the world designed to improve literacy rates. Despite these measures, UNESCO studies have found that a number of nations still have illiteracy rates of over 50 percent, and that about 20 percent of the world's languages have no established writing system and are thus at extreme risk of disappearing altogether. Especially in the 21st century, when human society has expanded into the cyberspace realm, leading to increasing domination by a handful of globally influential languages, a growing number of non-mainstream languages, which maintain far

angeul is influencing the linguistic lifestyles of people around the world. A. notable task at hand is promoting the use of the Hangeul writing system among those people who have no writing system of their own. In doing so, the extraordinary brilliance of King Sejongs Hangeul can be perpetuated and appreciated by people far beyond the shores of the Korean Peninsula.




program lor foreigners



Because Hangeul is so rationally structured as a phonemic writing system, and is thus easy to learn, it is suitable for use as a writing system not only in Korean-speaking areas but in other language spheres as well. Just as various language spheres today use Roman script, which has been somewhat adapted to fit their basic languages, Hangeul also has the potential to be used as a writing

68 Ha~~ul;Korea'sUniqueAlphabet



fewer U~crs.arc berng rC:1dil Y Siunre d a I e. . I asid I In light uf the numerous . nfhcrs and in iden of hUI1l:1n trife [hal arc cell the world over, it eerns rhar a Fururc in which eV.~rronc ell n ornrnunicare Freely and on an equal foori ng, yer Wllhnut a loss i f cultural and linguisric diver iry, might he iii pipe

ar best, Nevertheless,

all people



orne roger her


help helter our current who Ia, k ::I wrirmg ~ , '1 .

world situation ill which so many people .. I, • rem or arc una .) Ie ro Iearn Wrlllll& arc nemg

:1!iI:Oarcd or excluded from rhe flow of modern civilized society. For rho, ' II' hil J[) nor ruamuun :1 wrn lJ1~ ~) SlCIlI Of lack rhc opporrurury k ro 1(":Ima I riting ~r lCI11, l Iangcul of ers a fcasihlc altern rive. In
rc -.tlll 'ears, the rr un '11 II U~ pOI -ntial Iii l Iangcul as ;,1 multilingual Wrlling \y [em h.,~ 1>..,,,,11 rccogniz -d 1101 only in Korea hut abroad AS w<.:11,wil h ever more pcuple sllggel>rin~ I lin [ i I 1'1' adopted :IS a \\If11 iog '\l'~ tern 11),people WilD ;\r,' l>rruggling rn overcn 111(.' ill itcracy,

The Cia-Cia language is an Austronesian language spoken by people in and around the town of Bau- Bau on the Indo nesien island of Butcn, It is closely related to Walia, the language of a neighboring ethnic group. In the 15th century, immigrants from whaL is today Malaysia established a kingdom on the island of Buton; in 1540, the king-converted to Islam, and the kingdom was transformed into a sultanate that survived until 1960, when the kingdom was integrated into the Republic of Indonesia. Most of the population Is engaged in agriculture, fishing, and boat-building, Traditionally. the Cla-Cla language has been written in a script similar to Jawi, an Arabic-based script traditionally used to write Malay. In 2009, however, the town of Bau-Bau adopted Hangeul as its official Writing system with the Signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOUl between the Hun.mi.njeongeum Society and Bau-Bau City.
In 2009, !l1e Cla·C'n ,,,be Hsn90ul Uti Iholr DII,cl.1 wriling &V9' m,

In ~n()'.I, liN ESCn published Atlus 0/ I"" \'('01'1.1'" I .lI/glIlI ses ill Ac cordmg ro Ihe survey, of rhe worl d'~ rrnlf,\hl)1 6.(01) IOTlRII.lgt s, ;[11"111 2. )()() nre III danger <J dis~lpl'''':lnng. Morcuvcr,



th\: p rcvio us, r hr cc- J!,clH'r:nions

SOIII l' lllll



CI" CI.< IAUYUHq~ t~xlbuok in Hanf]eul



\\ hr!c :lnt i hcr 1\)1,1 ;1rC currcm with lcwer I hnn ten users each.

ly on rh e \,..,q~\.' of

pi I he' U:l-Cm, :llniliOril V lI'ihl' of ahout 60,1100 wilt, [he 1~l;wdof HIIIOIl in ihr IlIdlll'll'si:1I1 stare o( Sulawesi, they hav~ Ill'lI'' own I;]n~U;l~l', 1 no: n wrumg system, ~() 111: I,1IIgll, gl' I .. I ~111


fuc .... ~"II!1('tlllll, , ,.' '. ,



~llrn1"'1 I. ..

\I'rt"rill)!. .~ysICI1l_

hi· owcvcr,

r hi' auoprrnn e

1 n I' 1-' -,;IIIJ!,eu I h>' Ill'
<':;]11 now 01 protect

[ I" rerr UI11l]UC

'I 11'11<':


end lea ve hell i11.1


rhe torm

records t Iowcring'I


long hiIStury

. ,I11Cl!S((1rs. \II J '1(' 01. I I1'1."11'

I, ncgan '"

(:1.1 II 1Ire and ong ano wu. I1

the \t ;]110 t' their k' I I "1IlgtOm,


Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphabet

The adoption

of H n ngeul

hr rhe .i,l- .ia 1'1'11 lie ro the
fa t rha no o rher writing ysrern could better e 'press

unique SOUIHb of the Ci3:ia language. In bet, when
is written


down in

.'.0 1IIHJS.

some lHl'1"


rhe ir origma]

Even :.0 Lind \ IHI[ found in Ha ugc u l can he ex pressed usi II~ com hi 11,I (ion,
01 I l.mgeu]

nJII<;(Inan(~ and
i hnr

II i~ :Ilso ~;Iid o f the

I-{:I n!,CII I <:;111c x p r cs« I he

Ci;I-Ci~l I lan:.\clIl


hct r c r th:111 r h e c n d l cvs

I, s

Roman script, That

m p l e hut
Sl'il 1I1~

tlcxihl«. a, it

pr.uscd hy

II}I' 1".<1"1111 I)V/I.I$/)'

ill Tb» tllIlI,lis III when il
in 144~, h;ll-

hrs: crv.ued

I cc n P r C) 1'\'11 "11 ,I '111;1 II lndoncsian 1~lalld SOIlH' 566
)'l';] rs lnrer,




Recognizing the Fight Against Illiteracy
Upon its founding right after the end orWorld War II, UNESCO adopted as a prime objective the eli mination of world Illiteracy. This was beca use the organization's leadership recognized that the assurance of world peace, development of economies and societies, maintenance of appropriate population levels, and promotion of democracy would not be possible without a decrease In illiteracy. Since then, UNESCO has diligently undertaken concerted efforts to wipe out llltt racy, which indud d th establtshm III in 1989 of the Kin S jong lit racy Prize. with funding support from Kore 's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On September 8 of each year, which has been designated International Literacy Day,the UNESCO Headquarters In Paris selects two individuals or groups from developing nations that have contributed to the development a nd lor d lffuslon of 1heir mother tongue and awards I hem a $15.000 prize and the King Selong Sliver Medal. In 2006, the Mother Child Education Foundation ofTurkey and the Youth and Adult Literacy and Education Chair of the Latin American and Caribbean Pedagogical Institute of the Republic of Cuba were so honored by UN ESCO. The Mother Child Education Foundation was recognized for contributing to the promotion of women's rights through its "Our Class" distance education program. which has provided instructional content to over 5 million viewers. The Youth and Adult Ulerilcy and Education Chair of the Latin American and Caribbean Pedagogical Institute conducted its ··Yes. I Can" program in 15 countries, such as Ecuador. in an effort to adva nee Ihe paten tial of individuals and social groups. tn 2007. Tanzanla's Children's Book Project and Senegal's Tostan, two nongovernmental organizations. were honored with the prize. The Children'S Book Project produces books in Swahili and educates teachers, writers, and publishers, while Tostan works to remedy Ihe plight of women and strengthen the capabilities of regional society. Winners of the Sejong Literacy Prize (Recent Laureates) Nirantar's Khabar tahartva project (India) Tin Tua's Literacy and Non-Formal Education Programme (Burkina Faso) People's Action Forum, Reflect and HIV!AIDS (Zambia) BBC·RAW (Reading and Writing) (UK) TOSTAN (Senegal) The Child ren's Book Project (United Repu bile of T(Inza nia) Youth and Adu It Literacy and Educatio n Chair of the Latin American and Caribbean Pedagogical Institute of the Republic of Cuba (Cuba) Mother Child Education Foundation (Turkey) AULA Cultural Association (Spain) GOAL Sudan (Sudan) Alfabetiza"ao Solidarla (Brazil) The Steering Group of Literacy Education in Qinghai Province (China) Tembaletu Community Education Centre (South Africa) International Reflect Circle (CIRAC)-a network of 350 NGOs and governmental agencies in 60 countries Regional Centre for Adult Education (based in Egypt) Bunyad literacy Community Council (Pakistan) Tianshul Education Commission, Gansu Province (China) Alfatitbonil/Alfa Desalin Proj ct (Haiti)




Hangeul lnspires Cultural Endeavors


Chapter Eight


a nurn her of reasons, including its scientific and ratinnal structure and graceful beauty, In the pa r ten years, Hangeul's reputation ha enjo ed a sharp .1 cent on rhe global scene as well, Hangeul received much attention when HlIl1minjeollgt!lIl11, rhe instrucriona I text provid ing detailed explanations of how and why Hangeul was invented and the principles of the writing system, wa included on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in October 1997. In line with the ele arion 0 Hangeul' rani, it began to be featured as a them in
M(;~l." .1."



.uid 1,1111.



research has been onducred nn the distinctive bca ury of its letters, 11. hering in 1I golden age for Hangeul .15 a culrura 1resource,

::..Ioprin,'g I L:U'Tl'ul ;1' all n rt rsric 1110111, and this has ,~ithl'';IIIlStlIIlCI-;'. 11 tllIl~ W;'I)" I 1.111;1;1.'\11 is more rh:111 a 1'1\";'1", "r I: "st.,_. ,,;,'('11" 111 III i":;1t i "'II.W i 1 h i Ill' rcu ~ i ng y d i vcr sc .lpl'fil.llli,m~ h lill' :If"' C;I, or '111 11',' nud till' .HlS.


:l1li.:!~'ldis ',,-·ill]:: fn~.lru~·t·d .1> ;J un iuuc subject mutter in the HIT \\,),rIJ, hem, suu« as d 5i,ant"r o.:!orhing, c"11 phones. arid

prOh'n I'lOpllbr


Si~h 111J!,' .)1

11.1I1),! '(,'111 :Ir~'


11.. ,. ':I~illg . ,\I

.11I,";ul, including

rhe entrance olihc II::-.lESLO Hcndquamo ..h :lId <I H~l1J!,"LlI sculpture displayed at the cnrmnc:c c t rhe Vrcrnuria .1IId Alhen NIII Tum 111 !I,l' UK, Han~l!ld illt(lrJ11~ltHlll "~11' cnun he -ccn in rhc subways I1f Tokyo, jnpan, .... ik- '!"lIns(1I1f; h llhoo.r-ds ; r'c- 11" \' o C()111TlWIl sigh r 'llnng Ill:'! jor h rll_l~l·_ ..lIY~ i,' eb in.i. The..: d.iv... nr H',": '11 l lungeul i~ 011 the ris{' hot h inside and ut~il~' uf Knr<:;1.1 he e Ko-ean a'ph,tll" ha~ IK'~n in ihc sputlighr f(11"

such ",ampk·.,

I Lmnucul artwork dis:rla)'cd


HangeuI: Korea's Unique ).Iphabel

Hangeul Inspires Cultural Endeavors


In February 2006, 'a hion designer Lie Sang Bong presented a line or anirc that
[c n r u r e d

r h e H311f,('ul

ca lligraphy


I ainter


in Paris, hence.

firsr, rhc letters were di(fi .ulr III m a k e nul, hUI ,IS 111c m o d e l walked d'nvil 111, r u u v a v Ihe)' slowly ca rue a li vo , 'he hold I lnc k and
while hr us h Hrokl'S oi I 1:111I-:CII I l",lIiigr:1phy were .1 perfect com p 1t.:Tl1 C III ro r he haute couture crca [Ina:., l.ic' ins pir ar ron for this a shion line came Irorn :1 h'lI1dwritten lcrrcr he recc rvcd from his

01 an abstract formative aesthetic and clothing de ign," made quite an Impression on rhe fashion world, A for efforts to bring Hangeul to life, it i necessary to mention the Milmu.1 Modern Dance Comp.1I1Y. Founded in 1984, rhts dance troupe has been performing works that exprcs Hangeul writing through rhe gracefulness of the human body and dance rnovemenr ~1I1Ce 1991. This combination of dance, which is known as an "arr of rhe moment " wirh rhe lcrrcrs used ro record information is indeed a breath of fresh air, The company continues 1'0 develop evpcrrmenral works, which use rlK' d,-Il1Ct'I'S' upple hod ies to furll1 l Iangeul ierrcrs and to syrnholize rhe prin 'il'l behind rhe Hangcul writing system <I well ']S irs background, n I history,



Founded in 1984. the Milmul Modern Dance Company has contributed much to the development of modem dance in Korea, led by choreographer and artistic director Lee Sook-jae, the company has repertoire every year in which the heir bodies. come up with a new HangeuHhemed dancers form letters and words with

friend l.im, which irnprcsscd
him grc:1lly wiill sf)'[ishncs, uf rhe Hu
pc'lllna 11


,11ip, Hi,



which have hceu (1 rr ised as h:lvinf, "a n Avian Yel J I rill' same lime modern .]L"lhui ," and representing "rh ' I. rrnony


Hallgeul: Korea's Unique Alphabet

Hangeul lnspires Cultural Endeevors


TIlt:' arrisric b -aury of Hangeul has al. 0 been hi 'hlighred by the Korean him industry which is riding:1 wave of success ar home and abroad. It call be seen in I he movie posters for such Korean films as Memories II( lvll/rder (200 ), l,'eCllkGi; Brotherhood o( V7ar
(100.3), Till' KlIlg und Chul'l/ (2005). The Host (_On6), Secret Slfllslille (2m 7), I NWl1l1g;illY (2007), fill of which feature film t it lcs \ r irren 11"1 H<1 IlgCII I calligraphy. Foreign films such as Tr<llls{rJrIIl1'r,< and SiJrck rllt' Third are 110 exception, with posters fC,1 ur iru; digital pcnrna nsh ip rhur ivid ly 1.:011V('y t he movie's

<culprure, nd Western painting, along with Hangcul letter shapes I cing applied ro font de ign and calligraphy works. There are countless examples of artistic works that reveal Hangeul's natural beauty, And there are ever more instances in which Hangeul is being ~ra fred o nro consumer prod ucrs, 0 ften ill volvi ng hrush-stroke
Hangeul calligraphy,



vrorylinc. -I(Kb),. upplicnrions o( H:III!-\clIl f rr , rristic




purposes :1I'C COII1I!lOllpia.:C :111(.1 everywhere. Fur example, at any convrnicnce outlet or umru-nud-pop score ;.l plethora of items, IIlcllldill~ beverages, ,11:1 .ks, and cosmetics, have p:Kk:l~ing adorned wirh ,I Jivcr,il\' ~(>,Iislt ':;llIip, aphy, Cl'l'(W:J with hold brush strokes,


At the forefront of the movement to popularize Hangeu] calligraphy is the design studio Philmuk, which has produced a vuriery of work ba ed on brush-stroke Hangeul calligraphy, The vunlro is actively engaged 111 a number of hclds, such as rhe production of film pesters and book covers, c()ml1l~Ciills, .pr~)dllc~ logo, signboards, and pattern de ign for the surfaces. o~ kHl~chl refrigerators, which are designed for the proper storage 01' kimchi, The graceful forms of Ha ng e u l le tre r ing ha v e lctl ['0 rhe development or some 200 Ha ngeu I typefaces, wh ich ::l re used in magazines, newspapers and books. Bur outside of publiccH.ioIlS, there arc far fewer choices available. Among the various typefaces,

I L1l1gl'1I1




i ppficd

ro rhc design


elect rnmc

innccs, In l kill he r 2006, L(; i nrrod Ul:CU il~ new :-.hinl' f)1'~iWl(:r's Etlilioll cc]l phOIlIC, which includ ., 011 irs iI,II':!.. "idl: rhc follllwin!!, v..rse from rhc p( em ., :ollllrillJ', ~r<lrs ar Night ,. by the I c lnve d pOCI Yu n nOl1g-ill ill handwritten Il'ltl'ring: ",\ rcflCl:[loll Ill' rh c sv.tsons. rhc heavens ,HC filled with :1 urumn. \'(Iirh nor :l
~ingk' worr)"




cun counr all rhc stars

in rhe aUIUlI11l kyo ,. his distinctive much 11:Ishelped to \ ill over consumers CI'(.'11 in rhe ':1(11 1':1 red cc II Phone 111:1rker, Hnngcul IS abo hcing used a~ ;1 theme in .1 I aricry of orher ar 'as. such :1' cernrnir ,

The calligraphy at Shim Eung-sub has IIIlllaggingly brought to lite Ihe beauty at Hangeul. © Shim Eung-sub


1. Banner celebrating Hangeul on the headquarters of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism 2. Ceramic representation of Hangeul at Tile Story of King Sejong at Gwanqhwarnun Plaza 3. Unique logo design lor Green Growth Korea 4. Sign in front ot Insa-dong 5-6. Installation Galmi Park teahouse at

art using Hangeu!



orea's Unique Alphabet


Irlt 'met c

c r [ends

riscd of pixels, le~JlI1!; r a "staircase" 'Hect that gives .::p::tra terS.l j.lgged edge. Dodurn and (;1111 im, which arc bcrrcr than 'r:/()$I" alternn; i cs, rc non c t h l·le", p ron e to th L: srn i rca sc e fecr, whi..:!. cunrribute to vi. \1:\1 f:uigue and a lack aesthetic appeal, .Ill(: r ) Ih 'ir irregular ,(,lIer spa ·ing.


ft.: 'h:Ullctcrizc



[0 oft n usc either Dudurn or $:uli'lJ",rigid, and sqtnar- lerrcrs,

rullim, which
l\itl1U1JJ letter

~.:tit 11~ ot~C}~ ~

1~~1:irj78!11O al1ld,'lglllJklllltlllt1rs



el-~ 1234567 abcdefg O}~C}g ~~ 1234 abcdef
- Chosun IIbo Myeongjo Regular

12345678910 ahcdefghijk

The I'C IIr caus e of rh sc rrubl:>JIl \X.'inth,w, uperari ng system developed ,It \'.-inl'
r"l11ili.lflr: r.:"·ld for

a rhc pcrvasivcnes-, of th bt .\.1i rosr ifr, a US software

Ir. wlu ... ,dc'd\ t h . ILlIII;;"lIi rype lnccs despite .1 I.n:k () h wirh tho: h,l~:l ncrisucs nf Hang -ul. Thus, there is an li!-:l'1H need 1"1' I lange I fOlll> rll be dev ,II 'pI.' . rhar ;11"' easier to

l nrcrncr

1I~ '1"5. II

nuxluun 111.1::(, In t"nmr.Hi nn society, i rs pri rna ry m! lose.1 :1 Incu ns of co: 11111 II 11 I ion Will i 111"'/ b Iy he eroded. iL:J i fa S 'nslng I i~ n ceJ. \1lcro,;o fr is work ing to prov ide a bcrrcr til 'd, p('lll 11:1I1g III fori: en 'irlllllm:nr rhr"ugh easter-to-read, bcrrerq1mlli. tc rr, as veil :IS 1 xrer "'npr suppi irr hy adoptillg ~1 hcrrer fum rcchnol >gy :1!1 d a :irc's.,iIl].!. 'xi,,! iI1g Frlint ; ~~lICS. As P;] rt o f rh is cFfon, it h,lS I inked up ,.,'111, I he J JMlf!_C!I I rOllt dcvclnpmenr fi 1"111 ~:lld"lll:llmI1111lIi(,llion rn dt:·.·,·I.,1' ,1 11t.'~\· lis!.'!' Interface (tll) font,
flllllLlm~llr.rI cleM Clllhi c.
1'1[1'r:lI111 Slh.h:l


II:rllg .ul

II~ (It keep




O~:; c.~~ tt-~
O~ ~

O~:; q.g. i(_I-.g

)1~Ct.g. ~i}



12345678910 abcdefghijk

C~.g. tt~
12345678910 abed

1234567 abcdefg

1234 abcdef
- Seoul Namsanche Bold

f.. r

l·.~":1: I. "1'1


"'I." ill rnonitur OH1···· ,1I1J rlt i,. ll, L' r,
years 01 r 111

di f'1.:r~' menus

and Microsofr

°1~Lr.g. o}~



c:~n Ill'll'. cI1J~!Y :l rich fllul crl·irollnr-:nr
I)jl1!,,,_.If 'a



til<" I);Ha ugc t· fou 11 Y" ird d"ClJl11!.'11t5.


~::t::~..;=.. ~
•• "i"::




Om' in=ururion rhnr I-:I~

""'"""'--..:'It -"'--,,",


~ft. iaj;

I ~.Ij:.

'it i!iIll2l4~G789(J

01- ~ C1-.g- tt~ 1234567 a bcdefg o};;c}~ tt~ 1234 abcdef
, Seoul Hangangche Medium

c}.g. ~~

12345678910 abcdefghijk


1t1!§:[ol-e ~

.::L'Ijf 12345678

I'P ycd
1")' 'l:f3-: "

I( cy
u' the

roIe ill l he

p,'pu 1.HI/:arioll

f H:J Ilgc II


;q~'5f::- ~~ Windowsz] AI £:!

or ~





Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphabet

Hangeul tnspires Cultural Endeavors 85



Efforts [0 deslS lVf)efaces are closely related to the development of typography. Korea'~ leading typographic designer Is Ahn Sang-soo, who developed a keen lnterest I Hangeul typog aphy in the early 1980s. As layout designer lor t e monthly magazl ne Madol1l£}. he created the Madang yperace 0 overco e the general monotonv and rlgidHy of existing Hangeu! lllPl!faces. In 1985, be founded the graphics design firm Ahn Graphics and intreduced is namesake t)'pef.tlce. Pre"'io sly, Ha g ul could not escape horn Its Lraditional square frame. But the Ahn Sang-soo typeface broke lree of this convention, and promo! d Ihe dlversily of Hangeul typefaces. A .m has continued to explore new shapes and forms for Hangeul through the introduction of highly creative innovations. The German cHy of Leipzig awarded Ahn Sang-suo lhe 2007 Gutenberg-Preis", while taking note that "he is a !typographer with 11 rare artistic ability and a distincl~.,e sensibility, amd through his Innovative typeface development and pographlc design he has contributed drama tlcally to the renovation 0 f Ha ngeul tvpogra phy."

daily newspaper. The typeface [hat the newspaper introduced in 2000 was developed after live years of research into a design especially for Internet use. Initiative in the development of rypography has u ually been undertaken by newspapers, which is true of Korea as well. In early 2007, the Chosun llbo made available the Chosun !lbo Myeongjo Typeface for free, providing newspapers with an opportunity to adopt a Hangeul typeface specifically designed for today'S print medium. In addition, the Hankyoreh newspaper and the Sarnsung roup have al 0 published their own research findings on Hangeu I ypefaces, which hopefully suggest rhar related efforts will be implemented in the future. Cities have joined the media and Com panic in developing new scripts. Seoul Metropolitan Government announced in August 2008 the creation of seven new fonts ('0 boo r [he ciry's identity and brand value, including die Ming-srylc Seoul Hangangche (Light nnd Medium) and Gothic-type Seoul arnsanche ronrs (Light, Medium. Bold and Extra Bold). The new fonts were developed to reflect Seoul's hi wry, rradirions, culture, and society, bur with a modern touch. A vertical script was also developed for lise on signboards and signs. Seoul-where a scientific writing system was developed with rhe people in mind and the world's first metal movable type

,..Tile Gutenberg-Preis was
('51 ~blijshed In 1959 to

was invented=-has
ani)' he found


commemorate Johannes GUlenberg (1398'1468), the lrv tor or movable metal type. II is awarded to individluals and organizations t' at contribute 10 th develo.pment of typography. s \'1 II as book illustration, edinn,::. and prod uctlon,

ysrcm and

succeeded in developing un ique fonts rhar C<111 there and that boosts pride in the Hangcul writing xpress rhe city'S unique idcnriry.



Afrer irs invention, Hunrn injcnngeu m did nor immediately l'~in widespread acccprauc . The elirc class dispa ragingly referred ro if as "vulgar writing," "women's \ riring." and "children's writing,"
while during the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945) rhe




Hangeul: Korea's Unique Alphabet


Hangeul \\'<15 prohibircd as part or the colonial government'S ell m pa ign ro SlJp pre Korea n culru re , which forced Ha ngen I underground. CI Hang ul managed [Q survive these difficult times and is now considered an exceptional writing system both at home and, broad, in addition to hcin~ actively used ro create new arri tie and ulrural works" it IS grarif illg to S 'C how II. ng 'liI can erve a a source of inspiration for culrural endeavors as I\Icl1115 commercial applications. lndecd, I lungeul is 110 IOI1J,;cr limited [() the domain of linguist, as people .rround till' world arc gl'Hlhmllr taking an interest ill this oneof-n-kind wnring system. Thanks (0 the Hallyu (Korean Wave) and till' grm inl!, influence nr !c;\ding corporate cnrcrpriscs l1S rhey rake Ji,: "P'" ruorin global markers, ever mnrc individuals an: corniu to "nrc. fll stud), Korean, while rhc number of students majoring in Korea-related lields in other counrries is rapidly increasing as well. In line wirh the rise I) Hangeul's cultural va rue, Koreans must further rdlnc thL' applicarions of Hnugeul so thar it tan continue to serve as a wellspring o crcariviry '1110 innovation.


~ i!I



tltVOl !.i!I~W.2.LI
q .'rAU Talyunche Font

Taebaeksanmaek Font

, t Yullyeo Font



Ahn Sang-soo Font






Chocolate Cookie Font




¥- 2.] 7J~

L+~ ~

Hl-l:fj- o.l] ~ ~ 2] A]

~i i.] ~
Munhwa Font

4 al 1l ~ '-t4 ~ tl}2J-~l ~ {- al Al ~

2- Y

Gungseo Font

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful