Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hangeul riding high on hallyu wave

Hangeul, Sharing With the World: A large poster for Hangeul Day hangs from the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History in central Seoul. A week-long celebration for the creation of Hangeul, or Korean alphabet, starts today. This year’s theme is “Hangeul, Sharing With the World,” reflecting the rising demand for Korean language education in foreign countries. Around 120 activities, including exhibition, seminars, performances and contests, will take place within and outside Korea in the coming week. / Yonhap
Various activities planned to mark creation of Korean alphabet

By Do Je-hae

Hangeul, or the Korean alphabet, is considered one of the most treasured cultural creations of the country.

Recently it has been a popular cultural source. One of the most popular K-dramas last year was “Deep-rooted True,” about the development of the alphabet. Korean designer Lie Sang-bong has used the alphabet in his collections.

Celebrated on Oct. 9, Hangeul Day honors the nation's unique writing system that dates back to the early Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910).

King Sejong, who reigned from 1418-1450, developed a writing system for the Korean language with a team of researchers. Hangeul was promulgated in 1446. This year sees the 566th year of its promulgation.

To mark the occasion, the government has designated Hangeul Week starting today through Oct. 11. Around 120 activities will be held here and abroad.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism announced the plans during a briefing Thursday.

One of the highlights of the celebrations is an exhibition on Hangeul at Gyeongbok Palace in central Seoul, aimed at showing the story behind the development of the alphabet and what it means to the people of Korea today.

Classical Chinese remained the dominant language of the government and educated elite until the end of the Joseon Kingdom in 1910. In the 20th century, Hangeul became a symbol of national pride during the oppression of the Japanese colonial era (1910-1945).

Hangeul has remained a symbol of Korean national pride in the new millennium but with a new role. It has emerged as the main cultural tool for the promotion of Korea overseas.

In addition, a free exhibition on paintings using Hangeul is currently underway at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts and the National Assembly, on until Oct. 24.

There are also activities for children. At the Seorae Global Village Center in Seocho-gu, Seoul, an event where children write their name in Hangeul on an apron and decorate it themselves will be held. To register, contact or call 02-2155-8915.
While Hangeul is a symbol of Korean culture of the highest order, it has a significance that transcends the nation’s borders.

It has become a key cultural export and one of the main components of “hallyu,” or the Korean wave.

A host of Korean language institutes abroad, known as King Sejong Institutes, will join in the celebrations for Hangeul Day with various contests and other activities.

As part of efforts to promote Korean culture, the government will establish 14 additional language institutes in the second half of this year, according to the culture ministry.

"To respond to the rising demand for Korean language education overseas, we will set up 14 additional King Sejong Institutes, bringing the total number to 90," Bang Seon-gyu, director-general at the ministry said during a press conference. "Ultimately, we will run 200 institutes worldwide to spread Hangeul."

Sejong was the fourth king of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) credited with the creation of the Korean alphabet. The King Sejong Institute program first started in 2007 with 12 facilities in major cities such as Tokyo and New York.

The language classes take place at overseas Korean cultural centers or in universities that have departments for Korean studies.
To enhance the quality of the language education, the ministry will send 20 licensed Korean language teachers to Sejong Institutes in 11 countries, including Mongolia, Vietnam and Turkey.

The 14 newly designated locations include Santiago, Chile; Venice, Italy; Auckland, New Zealand; Ulan Bator, Mongolia and Bogota, Colombia.

The King Sejong Institute Foundation will be established at the end of this month, to mark Hangeul Day. It will be in charge of developing the curriculum and textbooks as well as training teachers.

The popularity of Korean pop music, or K-pop, and TV dramas in foreign countries has led to rising demand for learning Korean. In 2006, around 34,000 took the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK). The number rose to 450,000 last year.

For more information on Hangeul Day celebrations, visit

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