The much-admired Korean alphabet, Han’gŭl, was devised in the fifteenth century. The historical background of that achievement will be the subject of a Center for Korean Studies colloquium presentation by Kwang Chung, professor emeritus of Korea University, on Thursday, December 3, 2015.
According to Professor Chung, the people living north of China long tried to compete with the culture of Chinese characters before the invention of Han’gŭl. Their continuous effort to make phonograms ultimately resulted in Han’gŭl. More specifically, the change in the standard language due to a change of Chinese dynasties resulted in a need to teach new Chinese words, and this probably led to the creation of these new characters.
When the Yuan dynasty of the Mongols set up its capital at Beijing, a new Chinese language began to spread. As this language became the official language of the Yuan empire, the pronunciation of Chinese characters became significantly different in Korea and China. King Sejong wanted to adapt the pronunciation in Korea to fit the pronunciation from China, Chung explains. The phonetic symbols devised to carry out this purpose came to be used to write the Korean language and have become the present Han’gŭl.
Professor Chung’s presentation will take place in the Center for Korean Studies conference room from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. The presentation will be delivered in Korean; an English-language version of the text will be available at the colloquium.
The Center for Korean Studies is located at 1881 East-West Road on the University of Hawai‘i Mānoa campus. Center events are free and open to all. Presentation of this colloquium is supported by the Doo Wook and Helen Nahm Choy Fund. For further information, including information on access for the handicapped, telephone (808) 956‑7041.