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Hangeul: How the Revolutionary Korean Language Came To Be

In Korea, the 9th of Oct is a national holiday. Known as Hangeul Day, 한글날 (Hangeulnal), Koreans celebrate the proclamation of the native script of the Korean language, Hangeul (or Hangul). The creation of Hangeul is often considered one of the most significant linguistic innovations in history.

During King Sejong’s reign (15th century), the Korean people used complex Classical Chinese characters, which were too difficult for the commoners. The Great King wanted to increase his people’s access to knowledge and education, believing that language was a tool of empowerment, making connections and enabling the exchange of ideas. Hence, he embarked on the project to create a new writing system to improve literacy among all people, regardless of their social status.

TCG October 2023 collage-Hangeul King Sejong

Hangeul was a departure from the complex characters of Classical Chinese, and it was designed to be easy to learn and use. The script was revolutionary in its simplicity and effectiveness. Over the years, Hangeul has evolved to 14 basic consonants and 10 basic vowels, which can be combined to form syllables. The modular LEGO bricks immediately came to mind when I first encountered the innovative script. According to scholars, it is one of the easiest languages to learn, and the design of the new Korean script became a masterpiece of inclusion and accessibility. King Sejong has managed to transform his country through Hangeul, fostering a sense of national identity and unity. Here is a clip to help you understand Hangeul (2’43”):

Today, K-Pop (Korean Pop) has become a global cultural phenomenon. Besides music, fashion, dance, entertainment and cuisine, many people are discovering the Korean language. It is evident that King Sejong’s vision also benefits modern-day non-Korean natives to learn Hangeul. Much like the vibrant colours of October, embracing the natural world with beauty and transformation, the drive of a simple idea from the King who wished to unite his people continues to shine through beyond his original intent.

Here is a clip to help you understand Hangeul:

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