We know very well the importance of the alphabet in the language, but have you heard about having an official day to commemorate the writing of your country? Well, in Korea there is a commemorative day for the invention and proclamation of Hangul (한글), the Korean alphabet.
Translation by Laura Fino and Sara Varon.
Hangul was originally called “Hunminjeongeum” (훈민정음) and the term Hangul was widely accepted by Ju Si-gyeong (주 시경) in 1913. Later, in 1970, October 9 was declared a national holiday in Korea due to the creation of the alphabet by King Sejong “The Great” (세종대왕), the fourth monarch of the Joseon dynasty (대 조선국), and the figure found on the 10,000 won bill.
In addition to being a linguistic achievement, it is also an achievement of social value. Next, we tell you why.
Hangul Day (한글날) is celebrated on October 9 in South Korea, and on January 15 in North Korea, where it is called Chosongul Day (조선 글날)
King Sejong (세종대왕) created Hangul for ordinary or lower-class people, who could not acquire the language that was used at that time: classical Chinese (along with native phonetic writing systems such as idu [리두 / 이두 ], hyangchal [향찰], gugyeol [구결 / 입겿], and gakpil). This is because Chinese character writing was very difficult to learn and only upper-class people had the opportunity to learn it.
Hangul was originally an alphabet of 28 letters, which was later reduced to 24, 14 consonants and 10 vowels.
The elite of those times wanted to preserve their status by keeping Chinese as the true way of writing Korean. They even saw Korean as a vulgar writing system. Therefore, around the 16th century, the king disapproved of Hangul, and as a consequence, the Chinese prevailed.
Nevertheless, the Hangul did not fall to the ground, and had a resurgence in the nineteenth century. Although Hangul was proclaimed to the public in 1446, it was in 1945, after the Korean Independence, that the Korean government declared October 9 as Hangul Day, a holiday that allows employees to rest from work. However, it was not until 1970 that Chinese characters were completely rejected. For this reason, Hangul Day has been celebrated since 1970.
In North Korea, Hangul Day is celebrated on January 15 because it is the date of its creation, not its enactment.
Yet, from 1991, this holiday lost its validity since it did not favor the Korean government economically, and therefore, the workers stopped having this day off. It was until 2012 that Hangul Day was officially re-established as a public holiday along with the workday off.
As you can see, it was a long process of “yes” and “no” acceptance of Hangul among Korean society. However, King Sejong’s motivation to achieve literacy for all social classes through hangul is one of the reasons why he is so respected in Korea, deserving a day to celebrate these great merits. Now that we know the story… How can we celebrate Hangul Day in Korea?
In 2009, a bronze statue of King Sejong was shown to the public, and under the statue they made a museum.
If you are in Korea, visiting the King Sejong Museum is one of the best ways to celebrate this day, as inside the museum, exhibitions explain the creation of language and the technological advancement during his reign.
Also, spending time learning Korean is another way to celebrate it, or even learn the alphabet, if you haven’t already. It can take you as little as 2 hours to fully experience Hangul!
Now that we understand why the alphabet is so important in Korea, and why there is a day dedicated to its celebration, we can add it as one more holiday to our calendar and share the story behind this alphabet with someone close to us.
Written by: Karla Tapia
Edited by: Adamaris Llampara