Danielle Davidson is currently studying abroad in Seoul, South Korea. This is her firsthand experience with living abroad.
Here in South Korea, there’s a day set aside to honor the creation of the national writing system. There are a few things that always come up when talking about the history of this scientifically developed writing system.
The Korean writing system, Hangeul, is quite unique. At first glance it looks like it’s a system that uses symbols to represent words, but it’s actually an alphabet. It was created by Sejong the Great, the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty, along with a team of linguists.
Hangeul was first known as the common people’s writing system. Chinese characters were used in official documents, but, after a series of events, Hangeul became the national writing system.
For me, learning the writing system was quite easy, because it’s completely logical. Even though it’s an alphabet with individual letters, it is also blocked off into syllabic units. One benefit of having the words broken down into syllables is it makes it easier to recognize words and sounds as a beginning Korean learner. But, that’s not all.
The letters themselves represent the shape of the mouth, teeth, tongue and throat when creating a sound. For example /m/ ㅁ, /n/ ㄴ, and /g/ ㄱ. The shape of the letter that represents the sound /m/ shows the way the mouth is positioned. For /n/ and /g/ the letters represent the way the tongue is positioned. The sound for /n/ is made when the tongue goes up towards the soft palate, and the /g/ is made when the back of the tongue is moved in a similar direction. Pretty cool, isn’t it?
I could go into much more detail about this fantastic writing system, but I’ll just say this: it’s probably the best writing system in the world because of the fact that it was developed by Korean linguists who used knowledge of phonology and phonetics.
To celebrate Hangeul Day I visited The Story of King Sejong Exhibition Hall with a few friends and said ‘hello’ to Sejong the Great himself!