History of Hangul - Part II

The Chinese script was used by the intelligentsia of the country, but being of foreign origin, it could not fully express the words and meaning of Korean thoughts and spoken language. Therefore, common people with legitimate complaints had no way of submitting their grievances to the appropriate authorities, other than through oral communication, and they had no way to record for posterity the agricultural wisdom and knowledge they had gained through years of experience.

King Sejong felt great sympathy for the people. As a revolutionary ruler strongly dedicated to national identity and cultural independence, he immediately searched for solutions. What he envisioned was a set of letters that was uniquely Korean and easily learnable, rendering it accessible and usable for the common people.

Thus, the Hunmin chong-um was born. In the preface of its proclamation, King Sejong states, "Being of foreign origin, Chinese characters are incapable of capturing uniquely Korean meanings. Therefore, many common people have no way to express their thoughts and feelings. Out of my sympathy for their difficulties, I have created a set of 28 letters. The letters are very easy to learn, and it is my fervent hope that they improve the quality of life of all people." The statement captures the essence of King Sejong's determination and dedication to cultural independence and commitment to the welfare of the people.

  1. Part I
  2. Part II
  3. Part III