THE CULTURAL AND LINGUISTIC IMPORTANCE OF HANGUL Young Miller USC June 24, 2012 Hangul, the Korean Alphabet • Invented by King Sejong in 1443. • Phonetic Alphabet. • 28 letters, 17 consonants and 11 vowels at the time of invention. Now 24 letters. • Neglected for over 500 years in the shadow of Chinese characters. • Official script of Korea, out of Chinese domination. • Foundation of Korean identity. Map of Korea China and the Rest • China – the most advanced and powerful country in ancient times in Asia. • Surrounding nation states looked up to China. • Korea respected China and adopted Chinese culture and politics as well as Chinese writing system. • Sadae Juui – Korean government officials considered China as ‘Superior’ and blindly worshiped anything Chinese. Koreans and Korean Language • Korean people spoke Korean, not Chinese. • Korean people wrote in Chinese, not in Korean, because they did not have their own writing system. • Korea adopted Chinese script in the 5th century. • Chinese script remained the official script of Korea until early 20th century. King Sejong the Great Inventor of the Korean Alphabet • 4th king of the Yi Dynasty. • The only king ever granted the title “the Great” • Scholar, Humanist, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Advocate. • Motive to Invent the new alphabet: Universal Literacy. • Bibliophile – extensive phonological research. King Sejong the Great: The Legacy • • • • • • Sejong Cultural Center Sejong Research Center Movies TV shows Streets named after him Currency, stamps A Timeline of Korean History and Writing Systems Dynasty, culture Writing system 108 BCE – 313 CE Old Choson: 100 Chinese Han Colonies North: Chinese Commanderies (c. 108 BCE – 313 CE) South: Samhan Federation (c. 100 BCE – c. 280 CE) Chinese Ca 50 BCE – 668 CE Three Kingdoms Kogoryo (37 BCE – 668 CE) Paekche (18 BCE – 663 CE) Silla (57 BCE – 668 CE) Chinese 668 – 936 Unified Silla Chinese Idu 936 – 1392 Koryo Dynasty 1392 – 1910 Yi Dynasty (Reign of King Sejong: 1418-1450) (Invention of the Korean Alphabet: 1443) Chinese Idu Chinese Idu Korean 1910 - 1945 Japanese Colonial Rule Japanese Hangul Chinese 1945 - present South Korea – Hangul -- currently teaches 1,800 Chinese characters. North Korea – Chosono --abolished Chinese characters in 1949. currently teaches 2,000. Hangul Chosono Idu (7th C Silla) Writing Systems before the Korean Alphabet • Chinese characters: 5th-current. Upper-class literati, government officials. • Idu (clerk’s script): 7th-19th Simplified form of Chinese. Lower-level government clerks. • Hyang’chal (local script): 9th-15th Folk poetry, Hyang-ga. • Gugyeol The Korean Alphabet Hangul • Hunmin chongum (Correct Sounds for the Instruction of the People) – Original name of the new script and handbook; Sejong’s preface states his motive-universal literacy. • Hunmin chongum harye (Explanation of Correct Sounds for the Instruction of the People) – Chong Inji’s postface – justifies the invention of the new script; explains how the new alphabet works. Reaction to the new alphabet Opposition • Literati • Government Officials • Upper-class (Yangban) • ================== • Sadae juui • Classical Chinese and Chinese Composition • Scholarly merit Acceptance • Women • Children • Lower-classes • Buddhists • =================== • Easy-to-learn • No access to learning Chinese script The Class System of the Yi Dynasty Class Yangban (“The Right and Left”) Chung-in (“The Middle Men”) Sang-in (“The Commoners”) Choun-in (“The Lesser Commoners”) Writing system Scholars Military Commanders Government officials Physicians, Inspectors, Auditors, Translators, Technicians, and others The greater populace, Consisting mainly of farmers Chinese Private and public servants, Professional entertainers, Jesters, butchers, shamans, and others illiterate Idu illiterate Different names of the Korean Alphabet Hunmin chongum (Correct Sounds for the Instruction of the People) amgul (women's script) achimgul (morning script) eonmun (vulgar script) Gugmun (national writing) Hangul (Great script or Korean script) Comparison between Hangul and Chinese I Hangul • 24 letters (28 at the time of invention) • Phonetic Alphabet • Simple, easy to learn Chinese • Over 60,000 characters • Ideographic, pictographic • Cumbersome, complicated, difficult to learn Comparison between Hangul and Chinese II • Hangul: 훈민정음 • Chinese: 訓民正音 • English: Hunmin chongum Hangul: Foundation of the Korean Identity • Before Hangul: culturally and intellectually colonized by China. • After Hangul: culturally and intellectually independent; higher level of literacy; higher level of education. • Tool for true Korean Literature. • Means of resistance to Japanese Colonial Gov. • Hangul movements- active Study and Research since the early 20th century. Hangul – tool for true Koran Literature • Before Hangul was created – – only Chinese literature was available – Few had the ability to read and understand Chinese literature – Late 18th century, true Korean literature began to appear – More people could enjoy Korean novels and other forms of literature written in Hangul Hangul-Means of Resistance to Japanese Colonial Government • Japan colonized Korea for 36 years, 19101945. • Japanese Colonial Government banned Chinese and Korean scripts. • Forced Koreans to use Japanese only. • The number of Chinese users decreased. • The number of Hangul users increased. • Using Hangul was considered patriotic. The Hangul Movement in the 20th century • Chu Sigyong -- pioneer in the study of Hangul. Coined the name ‘Hangul’ in 1912. • Hangul means “Korean Writing” (from the Sinitic morpheme han and the indigenous Korean word gul). • Many research institutes such as the Korean Language Institute were established to publish Hangul dictionaries and standardize grammar, etc. THE INDEPENDENT the first Hangul only newspaper • Created by So Chaep’il (1866-1951), a leader of patriotic enlightenment movement. • Published on April 7, 1896. April 7 is celebrated as Newspaper Day. • Chu Sigyong’s essays on Korean language – calling for the promotion of Hangul. • Its editorial line became critical of government policies. Hangul today • Completely out of Chinese domination. • Koreans use Hangul exclusively; 1,800 Chinese characters taught in schools. • One of 10 major languages in the world. • Over 750 colleges worldwide offer Hangul classes. • Koreans are proud users of Hangul. • Koreans feel no association with Chinese characters. Korea Today • One of the advanced countries in the world. • One of the highest rate of literacy and education. • Koreans all over the world do well. • Korean government promotes and supports Hangul education throughout the world. • Big name international brands -- Samsung; Hyundai, Kia, LG Do Koreans need Chinese characters? YES – why? NO – why? So that the Korean people can read and understand their history and cultural background written in Chinese. Other than the need to understand old documents, the Korean people do not need to know Chinese characters.
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