South Korea’s Newest Commodity: Hangul

Hangul (한글) is not a product, but a language getting exported from now on. Hangul, the Korean alphabet, has long been the underdog in regards to foreign language teaching and learning.

Based on an article in the New York Times, this perception is about to change with the help of an affluent Korean woman, Lee Ki-nam. Her mission is to bring education with the help of establishing a written language (in this case, Hangul) to less fortunate people in Indonesia.

Tribes, such as the Cia-Cia ethnic minority in Baubau, have already sent a teacher to Seoul to learn all about Hangul and now he is teaching his local language, with the help of Hangul writing, to 50 third graders in his native village.

Opponents claim other countries might then want to bring their language writing too. This I really doubt. Learning Chinese is way too complex and time-consuming (my son is studying Mandarin), Japanese consists of three different writing scripts – Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana (I studied Japanese for two years while living there for three years). I have also learned to read and write the Korean alphabet, which is truly a simplified version, when compared to the other two.

Hangul was promulgated by King Sejong in 1446, who wanted to enable the lower classes some form of education. Up until then only the elite had the luxury to read Chinese literature, but nothing in the Korean sound.

In an era of globalization, Mrs. Lee’s efforts would be called philanthropic, if she exported the dominating Roman letters. Her efforts in spreading the Korean writing style are sadly not appreciated enough yet.

I will support her Hangul project and… I have to get back to my Korean study book now. 안녕!

For more information on study books:

Integrated Korean: Beginning Level in Germany
Read & Speak Korean for Beginners (Book w/Audio CD): The Easiest Way to Communicate Right Away! U.K.
Integrated Korean: Beginning Level U.S.A.

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