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This content is taken from the Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) 's online course, The Korean Alphabet: An Introduction to Hangeul. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsHello everyone, welcome to my class. This course will explain the Korean alphabet ‘Hangeul’ in a fun and easy way. First, let’s explore what Hangeul is. Hangeul is the written Korean alphabet, and Hanguk-eo is the language Koreans use. Do you know where Korea is? Korea is located in Northeast Asia, near China and Japan. You might have heard of the global pop sensation BTS or Tottenham soccer star Heung-min Son. They were all born in Korea and speak Korean, or Hanguk-eo. And Hangeul is the alphabet they use. The alphabet is called Hangeul.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 secondsSay it with me: Hangeul. This is what the alphabet looks like. Hangeul is also called Hunminjeongeum. Hunminjeongeum is what Hangeul was originally called when it was created. King Sejong created Hangeul. He invented a new alphabet and named it Hunminjeongeum. Hunminjeongeum means “Correct Sounds for the Instruction of the People.” At the time, the elite ruling class opposed the creation and use of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. Back then, the elite and scholar classes were proficient in Hanja, or Chinese characters. They believed it was the privilege of the scholars to know how to use Hanja. So they disliked the idea of the common people learning to use an alphabet.

Skip to 2 minutes and 7 secondsAt first, Hangeul was considered to have lower status than Hanja, and upper class men did not use it very much. Women and the lower classes usually used Hangeul in the beginning. On the left you can see Hangeul, created in the 15th century. On the right you can see Hanja, which came into Korea from China and was used at the time. The two books are about the principles behind the creation of Hangeul. Which alphabet looks easier? Which one looks more difficult? In this class, we will cover the alphabet on the left, Hangeul. The 19th century scholar Ju Si-gyeong first used the word Hangeul to describe “the writing Koreans use.” Afterwards, Hangeul became the commonly used name for the alphabet.

Skip to 3 minutes and 6 secondsIn our class, we will also use the word Hangeul. Hangeul’s original name, Hunminjeongeum, refers to two things.. The first is the book, “Hunminjeongeum” and the second is the name of the alphabet. The book “Hunminjeongeum” was published in 1446 and it is an explanation of the alphabet Hunminjeongeum. You can see the book was written in the alphabet used at the time (Hanja). In 1997, this book was registered as UNESCO’s Memory of the World and is a national treasure in Korea. The book “Hunminjeongeum” is considered a cultural heritage because it examines the principles behind the creation of the Hangeul alphabet. There are diverse alphabets used around the world, as you can see in.

Skip to 4 minutes and 12 secondsHowever, for most alphabets, we don’t know who created them or when they began to be used. For Hangeul, however, we know exactly who made it and when. Hangeul was created in 1443, and declared for use in 1446. Hangeul allowed Korean people to express Hanguk-eo with their own alphabet. In this class, we learned about what Hangeul is. I hope you have a better understanding of it now. In the next class we will explore the characteristics of Hangeul. This is the end of the first class. Thank you.

What is HunMinJeongEum?

Hangeul is the written Korean alphabet, and Hanguk-eo is the language Koreans use.

King Sejong created Hangeul.

For Hangeul, we know exactly who made it and when.


한글(Hangeul), 한국어(Korean), 훈민정음(Hunminjeongeum)  

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This video is from the free online course:

The Korean Alphabet: An Introduction to Hangeul

Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU)