February 23, 2020 0

History of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, and its meaning for Koreans

History of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, and its meaning for Koreans


Today, October 9th is ‘Hangeul Day’. The Korean alphabet is considered by some
experts as the most scientific and logical writing system in the world. To preserve it for the next generation, many
had to endure grave challenges and face twists and turns over centuries. Oh Jung-hee provides a closer look into the
history and significance of Hangeul. The Korean alphabet was developed by King
Sejong the Great, who officially proclaimed the new writing system in 1446. It was originally called Hunminjeongeum, a
name referring to a way for the people… to write… that reflects the proper pronunciation
of the Korean language. Prior to King Sejong’s invention, Koreans
had to use Chinese characters for their written language, something not everyone could afford
the time to learn, so the written word was largely by and for the elites. The use of Chinese characters also meant that
the Korean language wasn’t always expressed accurately. The study of Hunminjeongeum was really popularized
in the early 20th century, promoting literacy among the masses. Researchers at the time changed the name of
the Korean alphabet to ‘Hangeul’ which means, roughly, a script that is without equal. Under Japanese colonial rule, Koreans began
publishing more things in Hangeul, like newspapers, pamphlets and poetry. In 1926, they observed the first Hangeul Day…
to commemorate King Sejong’s invention and revive the national spirit. (Korean)
“Hunminjeongeum is very special because it’s the only document in human history that records
when, how and by whom an alphabet was created. Also, the introduction of letters made reading
and writing available to everyone, not just the upper class,… which was a revolutionary
change for the whole society.” The Korean alphabet is now known as the world’s
most scientific… and relics related to its invention can be seen at the National Hangeul
Museum. The most precious one is the Hunminjeongeum
Haerye, the document published in 1446 explaining how Hangeul was made. In 1997, it was listed in UNESCO’s Memory
of the World. The museum also has the first song written
in Hangeul in 1447,… and one of the first Hangeul-only newspapers from the early 1900s. (Korean)
“The relics we have here dating back centuries… demonstrate our ancestors’ efforts… first
to make Hangeul… and then to preserve and secure it during the Japanese colonial period.” (Stand-up)
“Without words and letters to write down language, knowledge can’t be exchanged or preserved,…
which would limit development in all areas of life and society. This is why Korea has designated Hangeul Day
as a national holiday: to celebrate and appreciate the Korean alphabet, and hope for further
development of our language. Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.”

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