After having an introduction by Cléa about Korean language called Hangeul, I would like to share my experience in the National Hangeul Museum of Seoul.
Hangeul is the Korean script that was devised in 1443 by King Sejong. The 4th king of the Joseon Dynasty wanted to create a script that could be learned more easily and used by all the people. Before the creation of the Hangeul alphabet, Korean was written using traditional Chinese characters, called Hanja in Korean. However, only the men in government and the royal family were taught how to write the characters.
In 1894, King Gojong proclaimed Hangeul as the official script of the Joseon Dynasty which made it spread even more widely than before. After 1910 when Korea’s sovereignty was lost to Japan, Korean linguists and academic organizations for Korean studies strove to preserve and promote the language by continuing to publish Korean grammar books and texts.
In the museum, there are the first books (Buddha’s because they were the most read by people) translated from Chinese to Korean, vertically. And gradually, Hangeul took on its autonomy, breaking away from vertical Chinese, to be written horizontally, from left to right. I was very surprised to discover the first Korean newspaper written horizontally in 1988! It’s so recent. I was also impressed by the recent evolution of Hangeul for its adaptation to digital keyboards such as computers and mobile phones. The Korean alphabet includes 24 characters, 10 vowels and 14 consonants. The Hangeul letters were supposedly based on how the mouth, tongue and lips are shaped when making certain consonant or vowel sounds. The idea of writing the letters thusly may seem simplistic, but historians claim that no other writing system is like Hangeul. Korean language is very symbolic, imaginative, and drawing. I discovered that the words were drawn and transformed by letters. It’s so fun to see a bowl of rice with chopsticks and a spoon transformed into 3 letters! And the verb “to dance” is written with letters representing dancers (a little distorted).
We understand better why Koreans like to draw because their writing is a drawing. And it is quite natural that the visit ends with a demonstration and a test of calligraphy, quite an Art: a whole technique for mastering ink and the hairs of the brush (sometimes very large)!
Korean is the official language of both North and South Korea, and it’s spoken by more than 80 million people around the world.
Hangeul Day is a national holiday that is celebrated on October 9th every year since 1970. This visit questions me about my own writing.
I think that in each language, we have a beginning and explanations. Members of the Brida community, we are from various countries. Can you speak about your writing system?