What in the Heck is Hangul?

By Kaitlin Clifford

Learning a new language can be hard, but learning the alphabet of that language can be a great start! Korea’s official alphabet is Hangul, and even though it looks easy, it can take some hard work trying to understand and speak it.

Hangul (hahn-guul), the official alphabet of Korea, is similar to English but only has 24 characters to learn instead of 26. These 24 characters are combined to make all the sounds in the Korean language, with the complete alphabet consisting of 140 syllables from combinations of 10 vowels, and 14 consonants. The consonants are based on the shape made by the mouth when saying them, and the vowels are based on a combination of three elements: a dot, now a short line, representing the sun; a vertical line, representing man; and a horizontal line, representing the earth.

Hangul was developed in 1445 A.D. by King Sejong the Great, who commissioned a team of scholars to create a phonetic script for the Korean language. Before that, Koreans wrote with Chinese ideograms - written character symbols that symbolize the subject, without actually using the sounds to say it. This newly formed script, allowed the poor and less educated people to learn how to read and write in a few weeks. It was made the official writing system on October 9, 1446 and that day is now celebrated as Hangul Day in South Korea.

To celebrate the creation of Hangul, both North and South Korea celebrate “Hangul Day” or “Hangul Proclamation Day,”; the South celebrates Hangul day on October 9, and the North celebrates it on January 15. To commemorate the day, visiting the museum of King Sejong is a great option to explore if you are ever in Korea at this time. It is located directly underneath the large statue of King Sejong in front of Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul. The entrance to the museum is at the back of the statue, and inside there are several exhibits explaining the creation of Hangul along with the other advances of his reign.

After realizing that Hangul has such a unique history, it really makes me want to expand my horizons and dive deeper into learning Korean than what I had before! If you want to check out an article about Eggbun - a great app to help you learn Hangul, check out this article: Eggbun! What is it, and Why You Should Be Using it to Learn Korean!


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