The Korean Alphabet

       Living in Thailand has exposed me to a variety of cultures and languages. One of the most popular being Korean. Everyone wants to be Korean. From the pop music, to the k-dramas, the make-up and the fashion, it is inescapable in Southeast Asia. Along with my Thai brothers and sisters, I too have become addicted to everything Korean. In this category of Korean Corner, I will share insights into the language, k-pop. k-drama, food, history, and culture of Korea, through my experiences.

The Korean Alphabet

       The Korean Alphabet, called Hangul or Chosongul, has been used since the 15th Century. We can thank King Sejong the Great and his scholars for giving us this much easier alphabet in 1443. We celebrate the date the King published his work on October 9th as Hangul day. Before this, Korean language was written using Chinese characters (Hanja) and another native phonetic writing system. The difficult Chinese characters could only be learned and used by the upper class. King Sejong set out to create something that could be used by the common masses. As the new alphabet took root, the upper-class became threatened and paranoid, so much so that King Yeonsangun, the tenth king, banned the use and study of Hangul in 1504, and King Jungjong abolished the government department of Hangul research, the Ministry of Eonmun, in 1506. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that Hangul was adopted officially in schools and official documents. The elite still used the Chinese Hanja, while the majority of the commoners remained illiterate. During the 1920’S Hangul was reformed but then banned again due to Japanese colonial rule. During the 1970’s Hangul finally began to replace Hanja as the main written system.

                          King Sejong the Great
                                   Brush Script of Hangul

            Hangul has 24 letters and 27 digraphs (double characters), and is not written left to right or right to left, but is written in a block form, such as 한 han. Each block represents a syllable. Han has three letters that make up the syllable, ㅎ h, ㅏ a, and ㄴ n. Each block has to have at least one consonant and one vowel.

Here are some basic examples…. Home 집 jib;  Heart 심장 Simjang; Mother 어머니 eomeoni; love 사랑 sarang; orange 주황색 juhwangsaeg

                                                                        A chart of the Hangul letters and sounds.


*Fun fact 1: Hanja has been used alongside Hangul to write, up until the late 1990’s.

*Fun fact 2: In  Hangul, long vowels were marked by a dot left of the symbol. But this was dropped in 1921.

If you want to know more you can check out this page…

7 thoughts on “The Korean Alphabet”

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