Welcoming Address at the Signing Ceremony for the Agreement on Using Proper Language in Public
Date: November 22, 2011
Venue: Conference Hall, Seosomun Building, Seoul City Hall
Hello! I am Park Won Soon, the mayor of Seoul.
I am very delighted to meet you at today’s signing ceremony for the agreement on using proper language in public. I have always been concerned about the proper use of the Korean language.
Recently, many new languages have been created inside our Korean language, and the language used by each generation differs as well. With the advancement of the Internet and mobile phones, many people now use abbreviations and informal language. And emoticons can express our thoughts and emotions through more than 2,000 different illustrations. But, the elderly, who do not know how to use them, sometimes feel frustrated. Kids might also feel a bit irritated when communicating with the elderly or their parents.
Also, many parents are worried that their kids swear too much. I am sometimes surprised by this as well. Before becoming the mayor, I always used public transportation, and I often heard kids swearing without hesitation. I was quite troubled by that, but I decided not to scold them as adults also use language inappropriately. Hence, it is the adults’ responsibility to set a good example first.
Come to think of it, this is not only an issue for individual people. Public institutions are faced with an even more serious problem. In fact, sometimes we cannot find the proper Korean word as there are so many newly-coined words mixed with foreign words, and it seems that little effort is being made to address this problem.
In the 1970s, something unforgettable happened in Liverpool. A low-income resident who couldn’t pay his heating bills froze to death because he failed to understand a written notice that used difficult terms. Shocked by this incident, one woman launched the Plain English Campaign, which has now expanded to Europe and the U.S. Not only that, you might have heard of the March 1st Declaration of Korean Independence. It was a declaration proclaimed during the March 1st Independence Movement. And what was the problem with this declaration? It was written completely in Chinese characters, which most average Koreans could barely understand. In actuality, it failed to reach out to the general public nationwide for just that reason.
Language is not only a means of communication; it is a spirit. Precisely speaking, it would be “Eol” in the Korean, expressing how the spoken and written Korean language reflects our spirit and soul. These days, one particular television drama, called Deep Rooted Tree, has become very popular. Thanks to this show, King Sejong the Great has gained the spotlight once again. King Sejong not only invented the Korean script but also led the knowledge revolution. Hunmin Jeongeum, the original name of Hangeul, was the greatest gift given to us by King Sejong. It is a means of sharing knowledge and information as well as an ideal tool for communicating with the people around us. It also creates equality among people.
Now, I sincerely hope the Seoul Metropolitan Government renews our spirit and soul. I know how hard it can be. When I am working and having discussions with others, foreign words often pop up all of a sudden. It can be quite difficult.
So, let’s try our best to rectify this. In particular, I am aware of the endeavors that have been made by staff members and experts of relevant institutions to set an example, and I very grateful to them for their efforts. You have done a great job, and I look forward to your continued dedication and support. Now, it is critical that we collaborate on this issue.
I sincerely ask the president of the National Institute of the Korean Language; the president of the Korean Language Society; representatives of Korean language institutions, private companies and civic societies; members of the Seoul City Administrative Language Purification Committee; and the university representative of the Korean Language Purification Committee for your constant cooperation. Starting today, please join forces in purifying our cherished Korean language. I, as well as the Seoul Metropolitan Government, assure you that we will renew our promise.