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r.1 Jan 2006
1989 (first draft).

A Search for a new keyboard layout

for the Korean alphabet


Introduction: Examining Problems in the Keyboard Layouts:

1. KSK vs. ARJ layout at a glance
2. Korean Keyboard layouts
3. KSK layout and its problems
4. ARJ Korean Keyboard Layout (2015 – final version)
5. Conclusion
Summary of how to implement the ARJ layout
Remapping QWERTY keyboard to ARJ
6. Appendix on Korean Alphabet (Hangul)

See the separate file:

Supplement for Korean Keyboard Layout Study

Part I. Hangul & Computer

I. Terminologies
II. On Korean Alphabet
III. Frequency data of Hangul jamo
IV. Hangul in computer
Part II. Korean and English keyboards
On English Typewriters and Keyboards
On Korean Typewriters and Keyboards
Historical Hangul Keyboard Layouts
Examined candidate layouts for the new layout
Virtual Keyboards
Ergonomical consideration for typing
Part III. Examined candidates for the new layout
For vowel jamo layout
For consonant jamo layout


Hangul is the phonetic alphabet scientifically created specifically for the Korean
language for the need of Korean people in 1446 by King Sejong, the fourth king of
Joseon Dynasty of Korea. It is the only alphabet which is known about who, why,
howa, when it was created.

The current Korean Standard Keyboard layout (‘KSK’) was officially adopted b
1982 for computer keyboard use for the Korean alphabet ('Hangul' c , '한글' in
Korean). It is with a two-set input system and is being used in conjunction with a
computer input method editor, such as Microsoft Korean Windows IME. d

This study is to examine the shortcomings of KSK and is to propose an alternative

new keyboard layout for computer input – a simple, concise, intuitive layout, easy
to learn and for typing.e It is superior and follows an ergonomic principle which is
based on the frequency data, the principle adopted in the so-called Dvorak keyboard
layoutf, an alternative to the traditional QWERTY layout which was originally for
English typewriters.g

a "featural alphabet" after Sampson, Geoffrey (1990). Ref.
. KSX 5002-1982. Previously it had been was in use since 1969 for typewriter keyboard layout for
touch typing 'touch tying' is in contrast to hunt-and-peck typing 'finger typing' ('독수리 타법'). An entirely
different layout is for 'thumb typing' to be used on small-screen mobile devices in Korean as well as in English
[한글 타자기의 역사
c 'Hangul'; less commonly as 'Hangeul' in the standard Romanization scheme.
d Hangul (Korean) Windows supports the KSC5601-1987 code set, which consists of several thousand Hangul

characters. The Hangul Windows IME (Input Method Editor) allows the user to enter Hangul jamo (24 basic
components of Hangul characters), compose the final characters, and send them to applications.
This work does not cover for a specialty keyboard/layout, such as a single-handed or a small-screen
f The Dvorak Simplified Keyboard: Forty Years of
g 1873 by Christopher Latham Sholes.

Examining Problems in the Keyboard Layouts:

A Keyboard_layout is a map or a definition of how keys coded for alphabet letters

and other characters, symbols or functions are laid out on a keyboard (of a typewriter
or a computer). Often the word 'keyboard' is used for 'keyboard layout' rather than a
physical keyboard.

The keyboard layout used in a computer is determined by software in the computer.

The letters shown on the keytops indicate the standard layout for the keyboard. There
are many different keyboard layouts in use for different languages throughout the
world. More than one layout may be available for one particular language.a

Writing Korean is simply by writing letters one after another just as in most languages
in the world. However, it follows a unique convention: placing two or more
constituent alphabet-characters (jamo)b to form a 'letter'c (글자 gŭlja) assembling
into a square dimension, in a writing method called '모아쓰기' ('assembled writing'
'syllable block writing' 'syllabic writing').d Such a letter is a ‘syllabic character' as it
constitutes a syllable.e Thus, Korean is writtenf in these syllabic characters composed
with alphabetic characters. The pronunciation is a different topic to be dealt with. g

With for computer input only 33 (24+9)h are needed to be assigned to keys. In the
beginning of what was called 한글 기계화 (machine-aided input for writing Korean),
however, to design a practical mechanical typewriter for Korean, what was needed
was minimal three sets of jamo in order to produce letters of acceptable appearance –
one set for vowel letters and two for consonant letters. A first practical one invented
by Dr. Gong (1949) with a 3-set input method (세벌식 Sebeolsik) became widely
used. It was efficient for speedy touch-typing.

자모 (子母) jamo = (consonant letters 자음자 + vowel letters 모음자). (子音字; 母音)
English word 'letter' used for our topic is "a symbol used to write a language representing its sound.
Syn. 'character' which includes non-alphabet, such as numerals, punctation marks and other symbols.
'모아쓰기' ('assembled writing) ['syllable block writing'] which is in contrast to '풀어쓰기'
('unassembled writing'). Ref. [온라인 한글 입력기] 보태고 고친 풀어쓰기 기능
A syllabic character needs that each jamo take a different shape – smaller, elongated, or stretched to
fit in a square dimension. As the alphabet is phonetic, pronunciation of a letter, that is syllabic
character, is straightforward. However, one exception is when dealing with the final consonants which
follows a set of several clear well- defined rules
Originally the writing on a page is from top to bottom and from left to right. This was after the
writing style of Chinese in the premodern time.
. The pronunciation is a different topic to be dealt with. The pronunciation of letters is rather
straightforward as the alphabet is phonetic. There are, however, several well-defined rules to
pronounce syllables. These deal with a final consonant when followed by an initial consonant or by a
vowel (that is, with a null consonant ㅇ as the initial consonant).
. Total 33 (26 + 7 in shift) = vowel letters (12 + 2 in shift) + consonant letters (14 + 5 in shift).
Originally, a 4-set input layout for typewriters was adopted in 1969 by the Korean
government. A typewriter with a 4-set input method (네벌식 Nebeolsik) requires two
sets for consonants and two sets of vowels was made afterwards. The sole benefit was
that it was able to produce type-written words esthetically pleasing but difficult to
learn and slow in typing; its use was limited as it was more expensive. It was much
less popular to the traditional 3-set input layout for typewriters then widely used. It
was proposed along with a 2-set input layout for teletype a used, in 'unassembled
writing mode', not assembling jamo into syllabic characters.

Now being completely freed from the constrains imposed by the design of mechanical
typewriters, Korean alphabet input on a computer keyboard needs only two sets, one
for consonant letters and one for vowel letters. It is simpler and easier than the 3-set
input layout that was required for typewriters. As alphabet letters/characters (자모 ja-
mo) are entered one after another by pressing keys on a keyboard, they are being
encoded by a program which automatically assembles them into Korean letters
(syllabic characters), such as Microsoft Korean Windows Input Method Editor (IME).
This is an essential component for computer keyboard input of Korean language.

The current official layout for the input method (입력 방식; 入力 方式) is the Korean
Standard Keyboardb which is a 2-set input method (두벌식 Dubeolsik) adopted by
the Korean government in 1982. It was simply carried over from the then official 4-
set input layout for the mechanical typewriters. It did not undergo a careful study to
examine actual computer keyboard use.

For considerable period of time (in late 2000’s) some preferred the traditional 3- set
input layout, which was also a carry-over from the typewriters. In this information
age, however, there is simply nothing to be gained by using three-set input layout
over two-set input. Actually, their dislike of the new two-set input layout was not over
the 2-set input method per se but over the deficiency of the particular layout of KSK,
which shows illogical placement of alphabet-characters and lack of due consideration
for ergonomics.c

Since mid-1980's I began to look into the physical keyboards and the layouts in order
problem of a new design as we were well into the age of personal computing. It was
prompted by the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard layout ('DSK') which was developed as
an alternative to QWERTY layout. It became possible to use Dvorak layout on PC
when a keyboard remapping program became available on IBM PCd. Eventually it

[Ref: for the exact teletype keyboard layout]
Hereafter “KSK” – In 1982, a new standard computer keyboard layout, called KS C5715. (Renamed as
KS X-5002 in 1992).
For ergonomic consideration, see Ref. the-history-
of-the-keyboard/. [Ref: August Dvorak et al. (1936), Typewriting Behavior: Psychology Applied to
Teaching and Learning Typewriting]
IBM introduced the first personal computer in Aug. 1981. Ref. <The Birth of the IBM PC>www-
became to be supported within Windows OS with Korean Windows IME. [when?]
Eventually it led me to look into how to input Korean letters with a layout for Korean
alphabet for a computer keyboard.a

For typewriters in the past, and now for computer keyboards, the very 'key' for a
keyboard layout of choice is speed, accuracy, and reduced workload on fingers. When
it is also easier to learn, what else is there to ask more for a layout?

A better keyboard layout for Korean language is something worth to be considered.

Proposed here is a new layout, which is designed with ergonomics in mind. Long
overdue as a replacement, it easier to learn and memorized, and easier to be
proficient in typing (accuracy and speed) and reduced fatigue with workload
efficiently distributed to the hands and fingers.

Ref: (1) First IBM-compatible PC was made 1984 in Korea. [Dedrick & Kraemer (1998) Asia's
Computer Challenge: Threat or Opportunity for the United States and the World? p.127]
(2) First Hangul word processor for MS-DOS in 1989.
1. KSK, ARJ, and English Keyboard layouts

1.1. KSK vs. ARJ at a glance

Row ↓

ㅂ ㅈ ㄷ ㄱ ㅅ ㅛ ㅕ ㅑ ㅐ ㅔ Top
ㅁ ㄴ ㅇ ㄹ ㅎ ㅗ ㅓ ㅏ ㅣ ; Home

ㅋ ㅌ ㅊ ㅍ ㅠ ㅜ ㅡ < , > . ? / Bottom

[Note: odd placement of ㅋㅌㅊㅍand ㅠ]


ㅠ ㅕ ㅡ ㅑ ㅛ ㅎ ㄷ ㅂ ㅅ ㅁ Top

ㅜ ㅓ ㅣ ㅏ ㅗ ㅈ ㄴ ㅇ ㄱ ㄹ Home

? / ㅔ >. ㅐ < , ㅊ ㅌ ㅍ ㅋ : ; Bottom

jamo Total On normal status keys On shift status keys

Vowel 14 = 10 (basic) 2 (ㅔ ㅐ) 2 (ㅖ ㅒ)
Consonant 19 = 10 (plain) 4 (ㅊ ㅌ ㅍ ㅋ) 5 (ㅉ ㄸ ㅃ ㄲ ㅆ)
33 = 26 7

Mnemonic for Consonants on the Right-hand:


Keyboard layout comparison: QWERTY/Dvorak & KSK/ARJ


ㅂ ㅈ ㄷ ㄱ ㅅ ㅛ ㅕ ㅑ ㅐ ㅔ
ㅁ ㄴ ㅇ ㄹ ㅎ ㅗ ㅓ ㅏ ㅣ ;
ㅋ ㅌ ㅊ ㅍ ㅠ ㅜ ㅡ < , > . ? /


ㅠ ㅕ ㅡ ㅑ ㅛ ㅎ ㄷ ㅂ ㅅ ㅁ
ㅜ ㅓ ㅣ ㅏ ㅗ ㅈ ㄴ ㅇ ㄱ ㄹ
? / ㅔ >. ㅐ < , ㅊ ㅌ ㅍ ㅋ : ;

Left vs. Right hand Workload comparison: KSK/ARJ, QWERTY/Dvorak

↓ Layout \ workload → % Left Hand % Right Hand

KSK (1982) 58 42
ARJ (2015) 42 58

QWERTY (1873) 57 43
Dvorak (1936) 44 56

English Alphabet

English Alphabet (shown in uppercase)

26 (5 vowels = 21 consonants)

U V W X Ya Z

QWERTY vs. Dvorak Keyboard layout

Q W E R T Y U I O P {[
"' <, >. P Y F G C R L /
S D F G H J K L :; "'
O E U I D H T N S -
Z X C V B N <, >. ?/
:; Q J K X B W V Z

Ref. for 'y' – consonant, vowel, semivowel? -

1.2. Comparison of Spatial Relations in KSK & ARJ
KSK: haphazard disorienting spatial relation – different fingers assigned for paired
jamo (as shown by dotted lines). Note: a slanted arrangement in the traditional physical
keyboard for typewriters.

ARJ: Paired jamo assigned on the same finger. Vowel jamo in symmetric harmony.
Note: the ortho-linear key-row arrangement, more functional, on the physical keyboard
especially with a left-and-right half split design.

The vowel jamo ㅣ placement:

• A figure of a man standing upright is for the mIddle finger on the home row.
Both of a similar shape.
• It is in the position of E in Dvorak. Its sound is same as Korean ㅣ.
• It is in the position of D in Qwerty. Its vowel sound is same as Korean ㅣ.
Mnemonic for the vowel jamo placement:

1.3 KSK vs. ARJ with frequency data
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

22.61 ㅂ ㅈ ㄷ ㄱ ㅅ ㅛ ㅕ ㅑ ㅐㅔ 6.50

33.10 ㅁ ㄴ ㅇ ㄹ ㅎ ㅗ ㅓ ㅏ ㅣ : ; 26.04

2.64 ㅋ ㅌ ㅊ ㅍ ㅠ ㅜ ㅡ < , >. ? / 9.09

14.12 8.43 8.8 12.05

58% 5.67 12.84 17.29 9.08 9.67 1.77 42%
22.55 20.93

[Note: Oddly ㅠ is not on the same hand with the rest of vowel letters.]
[Note: ㅋㅌㅊㅍ are in different column from the corrending basic letters.]

KSK in a mirror image (for the purpose of easy comparison with ARJ)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

6.50 ㅔ ㅐ ㅑ ㅕ ㅛ ㅅ ㄱ ㄷ ㅈ ㅂ 22.61

26.04 : ; ㅣ ㅏ ㅓ ㅗ ㅎ ㄹ ㅇ ㄴ ㅁ 33.10

9.09 ? / < , > . ㅡ ㅜ ㅠ ㅍ ㅊ ㅌ ㅋ 2.64

12.05 8.8 8.43 14.12 17.29 12.84 5.67

42% 1.77 9.67 9.08
20.93 22.55

ARJ layout – 2015 - the proposed new layout

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
0.26 1.93 5.80 0.26 0.39 3.13 3.97 2.52 5.02 2.93
ㅠ ㅕ ㅡ ㅑ ㅛ ㅎ ㄷ ㅂ ㅅ ㅁ 17.57
0.65 7.10
3.29 4.32 7.70 8.82 5.20 3.61 8.62 12.32 7.48 6.10

29.33 ㅜ ㅓ ㅣ ㅏ ㅗ ㅈ ㄴ ㅇ ㄱ ㄹ 38.13
14.2 12.23
1.93 1.97 1.00 0.61 0.54 0.23
< , > . ㅐ ? / ㅊ ㅌ : ;
3.90 ㅔ ㅍ ㅋ 2.38
1.97 1.61
11.05 5.59 7.74 13.20
42% 3.55 8.18 13.50 15.38 12.73 9.03 58%
16.64 20.94

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

8.64 ㅠ ㅕ ㅡ ㅑ ㅛ ㅎ ㄷ ㅂ ㅅ ㅁ 17.57

29.33 ㅜ ㅓ ㅣ ㅏ ㅗ ㅈ ㄴ ㅇ ㄱ ㄹ 38.13

3.90 < , ㅔ > . ㅐ ? / ㅊ ㅌ ㅍ ㅋ : ; 2.38

11.05 5.59 7.74 13.20

42% 3.55 8.18 13.50 15.38 12.73 9.03 58%
19.23 20.94

1.4. Frequency distribution comparison in the Keyboard Layouts in English &

Comparison of distribution of workload on the keys for QWERTY/Dvorak & KSK/ARJ

Left Hand Right Hand Rows

Column → V IV III II + I I + II III IV V %
52 Top
QWERTY 8.2 7.9 18.4 22.9 21.6 7.6 12.6 1.4 32 Home
16 Bottm
57 43
22 Top
Dvorak 8.1 8.8 12.8 14.2 18.5 15.3 13.4 8.9 70 Home
8 Bottm
44 56

29 Top
KSK 5.7 12.8 17.3 22.6 20.9 9.1 9.7 1.8 59 Home
12 Bottm
58 42
26 Top
ARJ 3.6 8.2 13.5 16.7 20.9 15.4 12.8 9.0 67 Home
6 Bottm
42 58

1.5. Various English Keyboard Layouts

[See <Supplement for Korean kbd layout study>]

QWERTY (Sholes) 1873

Dvorak Original 1936 [different in the numeric row layout]
Dvorak Simplified Keyboard
Light and Anderson (1993)
Colemak Keyboard Layout (2006)
Workman Keyboard Layout (2010)

2. Korean Keyboard layouts
2.1. Keyboard layouts for Korean Hangul

Several different layouts for Korean alphabet for typewriters in the past and computer
keyboards of modern age have been developed over several decades. [See in the separate
Appendix files.]

2.1.1. Input methods (입력 방식; 入力 方式):

A two-set input method (두벌식) has one set for vowel letters and another set for
consonant letters to be assigned to the keys. Here, the initial and the final jamo are treated
exactly same for the purpose of input by typing.

In contrast, a three-set input method (세벌식) is with one set for vowel letters, but two
sets for consonant letters – total three sets (‘세벌’).

Hangul is of written symbols – (consonant or vowel) letters, not (consonant or vowel)

sounds. Hangul itself does not have sounds, it is a set of symbols to represent the speech
sounds (phonemes). It is a common mistake to say "Hangul is with consonant sounds and
vowel sounds" as each Hangul character is a grapheme (consonant or vowel letter. ?

The job of assembling jamo into syllabic character is carried out in a computer by MS
Windows IME which processes the incoming scan codes generated by the keys pressed.
Unless one can only hunt-and-peck typing, actually watch the monitor to see how jamo
shows up and are assembled into characters is detrimental to typing in speed and
efficiency! The problem of so-called ‘ghost’ phenomenon with 2-set input method as
appears on the monitor to be annoyed is a moot issue when fast touch typing is used.

2.2. Korean jamo for a two-set input method:
Total 33 (14 vowel jamo + 19 consonant jamo) are assigned to keys:
• 26 characters assigned to keys in normal status of the keyboard
= 12 vowels (incl. ㅐ, ㅔ) + 14 consonants (10 plain and 4 aspirated ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅊ);
• 7 characters assigned on the keys in shift status
= all 5 heavy consonants a (ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅉ, ㅆ) + 2 of compound vowels (ㅒ, ㅖ).

Total 19 are unassigned to keys:

All 11 consonant-clusters (used as final consonants) and all 7 complex vowel
letters are not assigned to keys – they only have to be input by consecutively
typing their component characters for a computer to assemble.

2.2.1. Vowel jamo (모음자):

('basic' 'compound' and 'complex' are the terms used on my own)

Vowel Characters (14) Key Status

Plain (6) ㅏㅓ ㅗ ㅜ ㅡ ㅣ
Iotized (4) ㅑ Normal (10)*
ㅕ ㅛ ㅠ
Compound (4) ㅐ ㅔ Normal (2)
ㅒ ㅖ Shift (2)
ㅘ ㅝ
Complex (7) ㅚ ㅟ ㅢ Unassigned (7)
ㅙ ㅞ

2.2.2. Consonant jamo (자음자):

Consonant characters (19) Key Status
Plain (10)
ㄴ ㄹ ㅁ ㅇ ㅎ
ㄱ ㄷ ㅂ ㅈ ㅅ Normal (14)*
Aspirated (4) ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅊ
Heavy (5) ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ ㅉ ㅆ Shift (5)
ㄳㄵㄶㄺㄻㄼㄽㄾㄿㅀㅄ Unassigned
clusters’ (11)

* and * = These comprise 24 letters (jamo) of Modern Hangul (14 consonants + 10 vowels)

'heavy consonant', or 'double consonant letter'. A method of inputting these consonant jamo ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ,
ㅆ, ㅉ by placing them on the shift key position of the corresponding basic consonants. Input by two
consecutive keystrokes is inefficient for computer keyboard use. Moreover, without separating them by a
space, it is not possible to decipher how three consecutive input of a basic consonant is intended. E.g. ㄱ,
ㄱ, ㄱ – (1) either as a final ㄲ + initial ㄱ, or (2) a final ㄱ + initial ㄲ. The method is use on a handheld
device such as a smart phone.
2.3. Frequency data on Korean Alphabet

[See the companion file <Supplement for Korean Keyboard Layout Study> for the
tables of the jamo frequency data for different corpus.]

To come up with an ergonomic layout assigning of the alphabet characters for a

keyboard input, it is essential to consider two factors – (1) workload for each hand
(left vs. right) and relative strength of each finger and strain of finger movement and
(2) relative frequency of each alphabet obtained from the corpus of the language.

Finger movement: travel from the base position at the home row keys to reach top
and bottom rows and, for the index fingers (1st fingers) from the home position
diagonally to the top left/right and to the bottom left/right. The 5th fingers are
required to travel much (more so for the right 5th finger) for the keys other than
alphabet characters.

For the modern Korean alphabet, the two-set input method allocates total 24 phonetic
alphabet characters to the keys available on a keyboard. (2 hands x 3 rows x 5 keys =
30 keys; 7 for use of punctuation characters.)

The following table shows frequency data for alphabet characters to be considered for
a two-set input method (one set for the consonants and one set for the vowels) which
is a current official standard and is for use in Korean language support with
MicroSoft Windows IME a . Some discrepancy is shown when the figures are
calculated based on a different text corpus. However, its magnitude is not too big to
affect to find a layout of choice.

Note: green colored 자음자 (ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅉ, ㅆ) and 모음자 (ㅒ, ㅖ) indicate shift
key status of corresponding ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅈ, ㅅ andㅐ, ㅔ on normal key status.

Note: ㅆ – much higher frequency than other tense (unaspirated) consonants. [That
does not mean that it deserves to be assigned on a normal status key as it was seen on
some old typewriter keyboards.] A break-down into initial and final consonant is to
be checked for jamo frequency data. It has no companion aspirated consonant.

Ref. on MS Windows IME for Korean language:
Comparison of Jamo frequency data for Korean Phonetic Characters
in a two-set input method for computer keyboards

Some inaccuracy in the calculation of frequencies on the original article needs to be

corrected. To be precise, the frequency for complex consonants, if present in the
corpus data, needs be broken down for each component jamo. Those data sets fit for
different input methods (2-set vs. 3-set) need to be carefully converted before they can
be usable.

Major differences from Corpus I & II:

The difference is found not significant enough to affect optimal assignment of keys

Corpus I Corpus II Corpus III Corpus IV

AhnMatae (Ahn?) (KIST) (N. Korean)

Consonant 42/52% 43/57% 41/58% 42/58%
ㅏ 8.82 10.65 8.57 9.94
ㅣ 7.7 10.24 6.22 8.3
ㄹ 6.10 2.73 6.22 6.60
ㅎ 3.13 5.41 3.09 3.39

3. KSK layout and its problems:

The problem and its inadequacy are not because of a 2-set input layout, as accused by
many, but its layout of jamo.

3.1. Vowels:

• ㅏ, ㅑ, ㅐ and ㅓ, ㅕ, ㅔ
It is logical to place each triplet in the same column. KSK defies any logical
explanation to have ㅛ, ㅕ, ㅐ, ㅔ placed at the upper row with no logical basis to
simple thrown ㅐ/ㅒ, ㅔ/ㅖ on the top row.
• ㅗ, ㅛ and ㅜ, ㅠ
each pair has to be in the same column. It is almost schizophrenic in KSK layout
which put ㅠ together with the consonant group, even on the different hand!).
3.2. Consonants:

• KSK has all of ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅉ, ㅆ placed on shift keys on the upper row,

without due regard for workload balance between upper and home rows. The home
row should take up heavier workload so that fingers do not have to move away
from its base position.
• KSK has all of ㅍ, ㅊ, ㅌ, ㅋ on the normal status (unshifted keys) at the bottom
row. However, they are not aligned to belong to the same column with their
corresponding basic consonants. Instead of aligning in the same columns for each
pair of ㅈ-ㅊ; ㄷ-ㅌ; ㅂ-ㅍ; ㄱ-ㅋ, the schizophrenic design KSK put ㅋ to the
column for ㅂ, and ㅍ to ㄱ, and ㅌ to ㅈ, and ㅊ to ㄷ – simply absurd!

3.3. Right vs. left hand:

In the two-input method, each group of consonant characters and vowel characters
should be for the different hand to be allocated on the left or right side of the keyboard.

Why the consonants should be placed for the right hand?

(1) It is natural to use the right-hand finger when we begin to type. The first character
in Korean writing is a consonant.
(2) More workload should be borne by the right-hand fingers than the left. The
frequency for the consonant keystroke is larger than for the vowels (58 % vs. 42 %).

The current official KSK with the consonant letters on the left hand of the keyboard is,
so to speak, made as if for a left-handed person!

3.4. Table: Korean Standard KBD
3.4.1. KSK

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
22.61 ㅂ ㅈ ㄷ ㄱ ㅅ ㅛ ㅕ ㅑ ㅐ ㅔ 6.50

33.10 ㅁ ㄴ ㅇ ㄹ ㅎ ㅗ ㅓ ㅏ ㅣ 26.04

2.64 ㅋ ㅌ ㅊ ㅍ ㅠ ㅜ ㅡ 9.09
14.12 8.43 8.88 12.05
58% 5.67 12.84 17.29 22.55 20.93 9.08 9.67 1.77 42%
(left hand; consonants +ㅠ) 58.35% + (right hand; vowels - ㅠ) 41.63% = 99.96

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

ㅂ ㅈ ㄷ ㄱ ㅅ ㅛ ㅕ ㅑ ㅐ ㅔ 6.50
2.51 3.61 3.97 7.48 5.04 0.39 1.93 0.26 1.97 1.93
12.52 2.32

ㅁ ㄴ ㅇ ㄹ ㅎ ㅗ ㅓ ㅏ ㅣ :;
2.93 8.62 12.32 6.10 3.13 5.20 4.32 8.82 7.70
9.23 9.52

ㅋ ㅌ ㅊ ㅍ ㅠ ㅜ ㅡ <, > :?/
0.23 0.61 1.00 0.54 0.26 3.29 5.80
0.80 9.09
14.12 8.43 8.88 12.05
58% 5.67 12.84 17.29 22.55 20.93 9.08 9.67 1.77 42%

3.4.2. KSK (mirror-image – for comparison purpose)
<after reversing in mirror image for the right handed>
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
6.50 ㅔ ㅐ ㅑ ㅕ ㅛ ㅅ ㄱ ㄷ ㅈ ㅂ 22.61

26.04 ㅣ ㅏ ㅓ ㅗ ㅎ ㄹ ㅇ ㄴ ㅁ 33.10

9.09 ㅡ ㅜ ㅠ ㅍ ㅊ ㅌ ㅋ 2.64
12.05 8.88 8.43 14.12

42% 1.77 9.67 9.08 20.93 22.55 17.29 12.84 5.67 58% KSK table (mirror-image with frequency data)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0

ㅔ ㅐ ㅑ ㅕ ㅛ ㅅ ㄱ ㄷ ㅈ ㅂ
6.50 1.93 0.39 22.61
5.04 7.48 3.97 3.61 2.51
1.75 1.97 0.26
2.32 12.52
;: ㅣ ㅏ ㅓ ㅗ ㅎ ㄹ ㅇ ㄴ ㅁ
26.04 4.32 5.20 33.10
3.13 6.10 12.32 8.62 2.93
7.70 8.82 9.52 9.23
ㅡ ㅜ ㅠ ㅍ ㅊ ㅌ ㅋ
9.09 5.80 3.29 0.26 2.64
? . , 0.54 1.00 0.61 0.23
9.09 0.80

42% 1.75 9.67 9.08 12.05 8.88 8.43 14.12 17.29 12.84 5.67 58%
20.93 22.55

4. ARJ Korean Keyboard Layout (2015 Final version):

4.1. ARJ 2015

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
8.64 ㅠ ㅕ ㅡ ㅑ ㅛ ㅎ ㄷ ㅂ ㅅ ㅁ 17.57

29.33 ㅜ ㅓ ㅣ ㅏ ㅗ ㅈ ㄴ ㅇ ㄱ ㄹ 38.13

3.90 < , ㅔ > .

ㅐ ? / ㅊ ㅌ ㅍ ㅋ : ; 2.38

11.05 5.59 7.74 13.20

42% 3.55 8.18 13.50 16.64 20.94 15.38 12.73 9.03 58%

4.2. ARJ 2015 (w/ frequency data for each key)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
0.26 1.93 5.80 0.26 0.39 3.13 3.97 2.52 5.02 2.93
8.64 ㅠ ㅕ ㅡ ㅑ ㅛ ㅎ ㄷ ㅂ ㅅ ㅁ 17.57
0.65 7.10
3.29 4.32 7.70 8.82 5.20 3.61 8.62 12.32 7.48 6.10
29.33 ㅜ ㅓ ㅣ ㅏ ㅗ ㅈ ㄴ ㅇ ㄱ ㄹ 38.13

14.02 12.23
1.93 1.97 1.00 0.61 0.54 0.23
3.90 < , ㅔ > . ㅐ /…? 2.38
ㅊ ㅌ ㅍ ㅋ : ;
11.05 5.59 7.74 13.20
42% 3.55 8.18 13.50 16.64 20.94 15.38 12.73 9.03 58%

An early choice for the consonant jamo 2013
6 7 8 9 0

ㅈ ㄷ ㅂ ㅅ ㅁ
ㅎ ㄴ ㅇ ㄱ ㄹ
ㅊ ㅌ ㅍ ㅋ

Mirror image of AhnMatae 3-set input layout

ㅠ ㅛ ㅡ ㅑ ㅕ ㅎ ㄹ ㄴ ㅅ ㅁ
ㅜ ㅗ ㅣ ㅏ ㅓ ㅇ ㄱ ㄷ ㅈ ㅂ
ㅎ ㄹ ㅁ ㄴ ㅅ ㅇ ㄱ ㅂ ㄷ ㅈ

AhnMatae 3-set input layout

ㅁ ㅅ ㄴ ㄹ ㅎ ㅕ ㅑ ㅡ ㅛ ㅠ
ㅂ ㅈ ㄷ ㄱ ㅇ ㅓ ㅏ ㅣ ㅗ ㅜ
ㅈ ㄷ ㅂ ㄱ ㅇ ㅅ ㄴ ㅁ ㄹ ㅎ
Blue – final consonants
Green –initial consonants
ㅔㅐㅖㅒ ㅊㅍㅌㅍㅊㅋ – on shift key?

5. Conclusion

A new layout ARJ Layout (2015) for a computer keyboard is proposed for use of Korean

(1) Easy to learn and easy to type by logical, intuitive placement of jamo: All that one
has to learn is the position of 15 jamo – 5 vowel letters (among 12 which are
assigned to keys), and 10 consonant letters (among 14 which are assigned to keys)
since everything else is placed logically and intuitively in relation to others in the
same columns with or without shifting.

(2) Ergonomic placement of jamo on the keys for easier and comfortable typing:

• Workload distribution on left vs. right hand in harmony with frequency of vowel
group and consonant group. The vowel group is on the right hand; the consonant
group is on the left hand.
• Workload distribution in harmony with efficiency (a) between the right and left
hands; (b) between four fingers with different strength and agility of each finger;
taken up most by the home row, least by the bottom row. (c) between the home,
upper and bottom rows. In addition, for vowels, a due attention is given the
symmetric harmony of vowel jamo.
• Minimal use of the shift key (limited only for 4 consonant letters ㅊ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅋ and 2
vowel letters ㅒ, ㅖ) is similar to KSK, except that two vowel jamoㅒ and ㅖ are
now on shift status of the keys.
• Practice drill on computer keyboards with remapped keys for several candidate ARJ
layouts. It can be practiced (1) on programmable keyboards, (2) with a key
remapping program installed on the computer, or (3) ideally with a keyboard app for
a virtual keyboard, e.g. online virtual keyboard for Korean
if it can only remap the keys. Cf. Another interesting app allows to input in Latin
alphabet which is convert into Korean (

Summary of Hangul jamo for keyboard layout creation:
All jamo input is by consecutive typing. A space is needed only for word separation.

All 26 jamo in blue (14 consonants, ㄴ ㄹ ㅁ ㅇ ㅎ; ㄱ ㄷ ㅂ ㅈ ㅅ; ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅊ), red

(10 vowels, ㅏ ㅓ ㅗ ㅜ ㅡ ㅣ; ㅑ ㅕ ㅛ ㅠ), and purple (2 vowels, ㅐ ㅔ), which
comprise the basic 26 phonemes, are assigned to the keys in the normal state on a

Additionally, 7 jamo – in green – 5 tense consonant (ㅉ ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ ㅆ) and 2 iotized

diphthongs (ㅒ ㅖ) are assigned to the corresponding keys in the shift state.

Total 33 (for 19 consonants and 14 vowels) are assigned to keys.

The remainder is unassigned to keys – all 11 consonant clusters and 7 diphthongs. They
are to be input by consecutive keying of the component jamo.

Keyboard layout comparison: KSK/ARJ [Blue for Consonant jamo; Red for Vowel



Mnemonic for Consonants on the Right-hand:


Remapping QWERTY keyboard to ARJ

Until a remapping program is available to create the new ARJ layout directly from the current
standard Korean keyboard layout (KSK), a roundabout method is to create first an intermediate
layout by remapping QWERTY [not Dvorak]. When this new layout is installed on PC, it
would bring up ARJ when the Korean keyboard is called up on the Windows language bar.

Important: once the computer layout is changed and installed (some may need
reboot/log-off), it remains changed until it is uninstalled. The keys to enter the password
for the computer are now different. You need to find what to enter your 'remapped'
password on the chart. It is better to have a simple password during the trial period for a
new layout. E.g. for a password 'do2use' on QWERTY keyboard, the new entry on this
remapped layout [ARJ Korean layout] should be 'kv2wju'.

Keyboard layout comparison: QWERTY/Dvorak

Summary of how to implement the ARJ layout:
A computer keyboard remapping program is needed for a new layout which should be able to
work with Windows Korean IME. Ultimately, we have to create an installable program for
the ARJ layout which can then be deployed to different computers.

As there is no program yet available to directly remap the current Korean keyboard layout,
the present work for the new AJR layout involved a roundabout by creating an intermediate
English keyboard layout remapped on the QWERTY layout. Once this English layout is
created and installed to take effect on a PC, the Windows language bar for Han/Eng is used
to switch from QERTY (English) to ARJ (Korean) layout. Installation and uninstallation
should be easy and straightforward. It should not affect computer system status to
require reboot/log-off and should not require to run by the computer administrator.
When installed, all that is needed is to pin to Start Menu or to the Taskbar; it should be
simple turn on/off to use. When the computer is reboot it should come with the
default layout and the new one turned off. It should work independent to Windows
Language bar (for toggling different keyboards)

In the of English keyboard layouts (with QWERTY vs. others), if the person is
already familiar with one layout, changing to a new one may cause more stress and
slowness for a while. It is true also for Korean Hangul keyboards, but the long-term
benefit should be rewarding.

[See in the companion file <Supplement for Korean keyboard layout study>.]

6. Appendix: on Korean alphabet (Hangul)
1. The list of Hangul jamo
The term "(Modern) Hangul 24 letters" refers to those in blue (14 basic consonant
letters) and in red (10 basic vowel letters) – assigned on the normal key state.
Purple (diphthong) – assigned on the normal key state
Green – (consonant and vowel jamo) – assigned on the shift key state;
Black – unassigned to keys; to be typed in component jamo.

Consonant jamo (14 basic; 30 total)

14 basic
10 plain ㅅ ㄱㅈㄷㅂ ㄴㅁㄹㅎ ㅇ
4 (tense) aspirated ㅋㅊㅌㅍ
5 tense unaspirated ㅆ ㄲㅉㄸㅃ
11 consonant-clusters ㄳ ㄵㄶ ㄺㄻㄼㄽㄾㄿㅀ ㅄ
19 Initial Consonant jamo
27 Final Consonant jamo = 19 +11 – 3 (ㅉ ㄸ ㅃ).

Vowel jamo (10 Basic; 21 total)

6 plain ㅏ ㅓ ㅗ ㅜ ㅡ ㅣ
10 basic 4 iotized monophthongs
ㅑ ㅕ ㅛ ㅠ
2 monophthongs ㅐ, ㅔ
2 iotized diphthongs ㅒ, ㅖ
1 iotized monophthong/diphthongs ㅢ
4 diphthongs (with w) ㅘ, ㅙ; ㅝ, ㅞ
2 diphthongs (with ㅣ) ㅚ,ㅟ
['iotized' – with semivowel y sound]

2. 한글 음절자 Hangul syllable blocks (syllable letters).a한글 음절
Practical # of the syllable blocks: (19-1) x 20 x (16+1) = 6170 plus
plus actual cases of syllables with the consonant cluster as the final consonant
(e.g. 갃갅갆갉갊갋갌갍갎갏굵굶긁돐앉앓칡핥흖흙, etc.)
Possible # of the syllable blocks: 19 x 21 x (27 +1) = 11172
• ㅇas the initial consonant (use as 채움 문자) is to be excluded, unless to
represent as glyphs for typography.
• Since some with the consonant clusters as the final consonants do not exist in
Korean language (e.g.퓛, 걡, 닀, etc.), the total # is much smaller.
• Old obsolete jamo to represent in Unicode.

3. Preliminary considerations for the keyboard layout:

When we say 'set' (벌) in Korean it refers to a grouping of jamo (vowel, initial consonant
and final consonant group) which are assigned to keys on a keyboard. Here we are
dealing only with symbols (characters/letters/jamo), not their sounds. The two sets are
consonant jamo and vowel jamo. The three sets are initial consonant jamo, [medial]
vowel jamo and final consonant jamo.b

Analysis of workload on the keys on a keyboard for the group of alphabets and
punctuation marks: [Not. 'typing' refers to motion of the finger pressing on the key for
input of a character.
• Fingers
o Index Finger: very strong, short
o Middle Finger: strong, very long
o Ring Finger: weak, long
o Little Finger: weak, short
o Thumb: assigned for the key <space bar>.

• Movement on the keyboard

o The home-key positions (for 4x2 fingers) –workload is minimal for typing.
o Vertical movement between the columns (reaching and folding; from home
key to the upper/bottom row)
o For index finger: side-to-side movement (between the home key position to
the next column) have increased workload; Diagonally reaching for the top
and bottom on first column position has most workload.

'syllable' – a term applied in spoken language.
b (두벌식, 세벌식 자판들에서 한글 낱자들이 차지한 글쇠 수 비교). The word '글쇠'
originally means a 'key' on a typewriter, not on a computer keyboard.
Grading of the keys based on the relative amount of workload for
difficulty/strain in reaching or pressing them with the scale 1 being the
easiest and 5 being the most strenuous. This grading scale takes into
consideration the position of the keys, the strength of and length of the
fingers and the staggered nature of the keyboard.

Grading on work-load strain/difficulty

(on a conventional staggered arrangement)

Grading on a “matrix style” (“grid”) keyboard (ortholinear):

Data from:


4. Study on how each jamo is assigned to a key:

• Use of the shift keysa is same as in KSK: for the consonants ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ ㅉ and ㅆ
(16‰ - this compares with 23‰ of ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅊ and for the vowel ㅒ ㅖ (2 ‰).
• Consonant jamo are for the right hand; vowel jamo are for the left on the basis
of ergonomic consideration: Korean consonant and vowel groups are easily and
logically separable. Consonants and vowels should not be mixed on a hand, for
which KSK has blundered without ergonomic consideration. It fits the natural
rhythm of using the right hand for the first stroke of tying, which, in case of Korean,
is a consonant. The right hand which can take more work load matches well with the
frequency (58%) for the consonant keystrokes, which is higher than for the vowels
(42 %).

• Work distribution to each row: jamo with highest frequency should be assigned on
the home row, with the least on the bottom row.

• Assignment of jamo to each finger: workload is distributed to each finger

according to their efficiency (index finger > middle finger > 3rd finger > little finger).

• Alignment in columns: For the consonants, ㅈ-ㅊ; ㄷ-ㅌ; ㅂ-ㅍ; ㄱ-ㅋ- each
pair has to be in the same column. For the vowels, each triplet of ㅏ ㅑ ㅐ; ㅓ ㅕ ㅔ
as well as each pair of ㅗ ㅛ; ㅜ ㅠ has to reside on the same column. Such
placement which is logical with no ambiguity or confusion makes this layout easy to
learn and memorize. (Cf. Scatter-brained layout of KSK with ㅠ on the different
hand separated from the rest of vowels!)

Shift key (윗글쇠) [온라인 한글 입력기] 윗글쇠를 쓰는 모아치기 글쇠 조합
5. Study on how jamo is being input:

How to input complex jamo – (a) simply serial key press; (a) dedicated key assigned; (3)
simulataneous two-key press (as in AhnMatae) for
(1) 11 consonant-clusters (only for the final consonant): [its distinct sound value is
apparent only when followed by a vowel.]
ㄳ (gs) /g/
ㄵ (nz) /n/; ㄶ (nh) /n/;
ㄺ (lg) /g/; ㄻ (lm) /m/; ㄼ (lb) /b/; ㄿ (lp) /p/;
ㄽ (ls) /l/; ㄾ (lt) /l/; ㅀ (lh) /l/;
ㅄ (bs) /b/

(2) 7 vowel-clusters: ㅘ (wa); ㅙ (wae); ㅚ (oe); ㅝ (weo); ㅞ (we); ㅟ (wi); ㅢ (yi).

(3) 4 diphthongs: ㅐ (ae); ㅒ (yae); ㅔ (e); ㅖ (ye);

6. Pronunciation of Hangul:

Vowel jamo
ㅣ Tree (standing upright)
ㅏ after (tree)
ㅓ [ʌ, ə] before (tree)
ㅡ [ɯ, ɨ] Huuming; brook
ㅗ over
ㅜ under

ㅛ, ㅠ Yo; Yuuu
ㅑ, ㅕ Yaaah; Yeo

ㅐ, ㅔ At, dad; net, pet

For detail, see in the file <Supplement for Korean Keyboard Layout Study' for the
rules of pronunciation of Korean syllables and words: