Outside the palace is the Sejong Center, named after the greatest of the Joseon kings, it was King Sejong who in 1446, decided to promote literacy among the common people by creating Hangul, the Korean alphabet. At the time, the Chinese script was used where one had to memorise over 2000 characters just to reach basic level literacy, but the newly created Korean alphabet had only 24 phonetic symbols, which just like the Latin alphabet, were to be put together to form words. So for example, the word for male in Korean is ‘nam’. Whereas in the Chinese script it was written as this, for no obvious reason. In the Korean alphabet, it is written as this, because this symbol means ‘n’, this symbol means ‘a’, and this symbol means ‘m’: nam. It is famously said of the Korean alphabet, that a wise man can learn by noon, and even a stupid man can learn in 10 days. Unfortunately I didn’t have 10
days, so I just learnt my name. Garlen. Garlen. That’s how you say it in Korean.