King Sejong’s Hunminjeongeum fonts are symmetrical visualizations of sound words. The photo shows some of the 124 pure Korean words that King Sejong the Great included in his introduction in 1443. Photo taken from a replica of Hunminjeongeum Haeryebon, the original study guide. Photo © Hyungwon Kang
Among the many wonders of Korean history is the invention of Hangeul in 1443, which is responsible for Korea’s very high literacy rate and vast vocabulary.
“I pity my illiterate people who have to endure hardship and injustice because they lack literacy,” King Sejong the Great wrote in his introduction to the Hunminjeongeum in 1443.
Koreans celebrate the birth of their screenplay on the Hangeul Festival on October 9 every year.
Before the promulgation of Hangeul, spoken Korean words and written words did not always correspond. For example, water is called “mul” in Korean but written “su” in Hanja, the writing system used at the time, which was formed from Chinese characters.
King Sejong the Great invented a new phonetic writing system, the Hunminjeongeum, which allowed Koreans to write down anything a person says.
Hunminjeongeum is the original name of Hangeul, which allows the visualization of sounds in a written language, as well as the name of the new language guide.
Hangeul allows the user to visualize in words any sound, including nature sounds.
Ju Si-gyeong (1876-1914), one of the founders of modern Korean linguistics, popularized the use of the term Hangeul to refer to the Hunminjeongum writing system after 1913,” said Kim Seul-ong, a researcher in Hangeul and author and co-author of 101 books, including “Sejong the Great Hangeul.” Kim holds three doctorates, all from Hangeul research.
Most people can learn Hangeul in a day, and some only take half a day.
The 1,443 consonants and vowels in the book Hunminjeongeum are rather graphic and visual. The letters resemble modern fonts with their visual symmetry.
In the 15th century, official government business, including laws governing contracts, was written in Hanja, which was not easy for most of the population, who could not read and tended not to use words with Hanja roots.
“King Sejong the Great defined his stated motivation to create, purpose and purpose, not to mention the stated purpose of the written language in the preface which is the main body of the book Hunminjeongeum. I found that he “There are 366 sentences in the Book of Hunmingjeongum, corresponding to the number of days in the year. The original Hunminjeongeum mentions 30 consonants but shows 28, with 31 vowels, including combined letters,” Kim said.
Modern Hangeul uses 24 consonants and 10 vowels.
A double-consonant combination letter for pronouncing the rare loud and tense “h” sound that was introduced by King Sejong the Great but is no longer used in the modern Korean language. The word means “to grow”. Photo taken from a replica of the Hunminjeongeum Haeryebon, the original study guide. Photo © Hyungwon Kang
“The original unused consonants have potential use in learning to pronounce foreign languages that have sounds not found in the Korean language.” said Kim.
Literacy is essential for communication and a successful team speaks in the same vocabulary, but around 1443 the Korean Joseon people spoke using different vocabularies.
During the more than five centuries of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910), only the educated elite were fluent in the use of Hanja-derived words while the working class spoke using native words.
King Taejong (1367-1422), the father of King Sejong the Great, classified eight regions of Joseon into eight provinces, all speaking distinct dialects. The Hunminjeongum unified the written language for the different dialects.
When King Sejong the Great introduced 124 pure Korean words as an example of how the new writing system could write the words people spoke, Koreans were finally able to write and read any word.
Hunminjeongeum, the title of the book introducing the new writing system and also initially the name of the new script, written in Hanja. Photo taken from a replica of the Hunminjeongeum Haeryebon, the original study guide.
Despite King Sejong the Great’s best efforts, Hunminjeongum remained primarily the writing system for women and as a complement to Hanja for Joseon’s elite class for 451 years, until King Gojong, the last king of Joseon, declared it the official writing system of the land in 1864.
King Gojong’s efforts were mostly ineffective, as the bureaucracy and ruling elite of the Joseon Kingdom remained in their old ways even as the 500-year-old kingdom struggled against foreign interference and was eventually annexed. by Japan in 1910.
Hangeul was used by some prominent scholars in Joseon, including a seonbi named Kim Jeong-hui (1786-1856), the famous calligrapher who wrote in Hangeul when writing letters to his wife asking for the necessities and food he missed during his exile on Jeju Island.
But it wasn’t until 2005 that the Korean government passed a law making Hangeul the country’s official writing system.
North Koreans chose Hangeul as their main writing system in 1947 and completely separated from Hanja.
Korean newspapers that used Hanja extensively for most of the 20th century print almost exclusively in Hangeul today.
Hangeul is an ever-changing living ecosystem.
Today’s Korean vocabulary contains many foreign words, which have taken root in modern Korean culture, giving the Korean language the largest vocabulary of any known language.
By Hyungwon Kang ([email protected])
Korean American photojournalist and columnist Hyungwon Kang is currently documenting Korean history and culture in pictures and words for future generations. — Ed.
By Korea Herald ([email protected])