The Revolutionary Brilliance of The Korean Alphabet

Kim Il-sung, founder of the Hermit Kingdom, decided almost immediately after liberation from Japanese colonial rule that his northern half of the Korean peninsula would eliminate the use of Chinese characters, known as Hanja, altogether. Chinese characters, which had been mixed in with the Korean script for centuries, reminded Kim Il-sung of the suffering his country had endured under Japanese rule, and he would have no more of that.

Hangul (한글), the Korean alphabet once called “eonmun” (언문) or “vulgar writing,” was to be the only script of the North — and to that point, the Supreme Leader, as with most things, got his way (he eventually allowed the teaching of a limited amount of “foreign” Chinese characters). The origin of the Korean people is somewhat cloaked in mystery. But the prevailing theory is that they can trace their ancestry back to Central Asia, and the general region of the Altai Mountains, along the colliding borders of China, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Russia. Perhaps almost as significant as their origins is the language they speak, and the relatively modern development of the Hangul writing system in the mid-15th century by King Sejong, aka Sejong the Great.

Read more: OZY

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