This coming October 9 is the 574th anniversary of the birth of Hangeul. Hangeul is a writing system that is praised by great scholars around the world as the “best alphabet in the world.” Let’s learn more about Hangeul, a precious alphabet that boasts a history of near 600 years.
Hangeul Day is South Korea’s national holiday to celebrate the creation and excellence of the Korean alphabet. Hunminjeongeum, the book that contains the principles of the creation of Hangeul, was designated National Treasure No. 70. It was also registered in the UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme in October 1997.
Before King Sejong the Great (4th king of Joseon; r. 1418–1450) created and published Hunminjeongum, Koreans had a spoken language but did not have the letters to write it down. Thus, they had to borrow and use Chinese characters to write down their spoken language. Not only was it inconvenient, but it was impossible to keep a record of thoughts precisely and in detail, which greatly hampered daily life as well as cultural development.
In order to remove such barrier, King Sejong published Hunminjeongeum and had commoners use Hangeul. Hangeul faced a great crisis due to the policy to obliterate the Korean alphabet at the end of the Japanese colonial period, but ever since national liberation, everyone has been enjoying the freedom to learn Hangeul and the Korean language. The Korean government designated Hangeul Day as a national holiday to celebrate the creation and the excellence of the Korean alphabet.
Greeting Hangeul Day, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is exhibiting the Story of Hunminjeongeum Haerye, which contains the principles of the creation of Hangeul and its usage, on the outer wall of the Seoul Metropolitan Library from September 28 to October 18.
The Story of Hunminjeongeum Haerye was composed by the director of the Sejong Center for Korean Language & Culture, the first person who had read and commented on the original Hunminjeongeum Haerye. Viewers will be able to understand its value as well as the history of Hangeul with interest through 3D infographics.
Hunminjeongeum Haerye is the book where you can find the reason King Sejong created Hangeul and how the Korean alphabet was created in detail. In the book, each letter of Hangeul is explained: on what principle it was created, how it can be used, and how it can be pronounced.
1. King Sejong the Great Memorial Museum
King Sejong the Great Memorial Museum comprises King Sejong’s Biography Hall, Hangeul Hall, Science Hall and Special Exhibition Hall, and houses a variety of relics and documents, including over 600 Hangeul-related documents. Outside the museum, you can find Stele for King Sejong (Treasure No. 1805) and Water Gauge at Cheonggyecheon Stream (Treasure No. 838).
Address: 56, Hoegi-ro, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul
Hours: 9 AM – 6 PM (closed on Mondays)
Admission: KRW 3,000 for adults, KRW 1,500 for adolescents
2. Hangeul Gaon-gil
“Gaon” means “center” in Korean, and this street (“gil”) contains the history of Hanguel and its hidden stories.
Address: Sejong-ro, Jongno-gu (Near Exit 8 of Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5))
3. The Story of King Sejong
At the back of the statue of King Sejong the Great in Gwanghwamun, there is an entrance to a special exhibition space called The Story of King Sejong. Here, you can peruse the informative exhibition on King Sejong the Great’s familial relationships as well as his characteristics and hobbies “as a person” along with his achievements, such as creating Hangeul and others related to science and arts.
Address: B175, Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul
Hours: 10 AM – 8 PM (closed Mondays)
4. National Hangeul Museum
The National Hangeul Museum is where you can find everything about Hangeul. The exhibitions are interesting with Hangeul-related documents and other displays, as well as artworks that interpret the achievement of King Sejong from modern perspectives. There is a space for foreigners to learn Hangeul as well.
Address: 139, Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul
Moreover, there are other online events that celebrate “2020 Hangeul Week” from October 5 to 11. Visit the website below to find out more.