Friday, October 9, 2009

Happy 한글 Day.

Google Korea got into the holiday spirit again for the October 9th holiday Hangeul Day.

And today a statue of King Sejong was unveiled at Gwanghwamun Plaza today.

A very interesting article about the plaza and the false history used to market it here. Starbucks, too, marked the occasion.

I haven't been to Starbucks in several months; is it unusual to have Hangeul on the cups? If it is, perhaps they could have used something a little more, um, Korean than "세어드 플래닛." The point of Hangeul was to help the common people read, so why write something that a small fraction of people will truly understand?

These people marked the occasion as well.

This Korea Times article talks about the various Hangeul-related events and exhibitions, including the one shown above at Gyeongbokgung.

It will be a day, I'm sure, of columns in the local English-language papers about the need to globalize Hangeul. The Times got started last night:
It's time for policymakers, scholars and educators to promote the globalization of Hangeul. The government plans to create an integrated Korean learning center named after King Sejong abroad to effectively spread the use of the language and the alphabet. It is also important to take advantage of Hallyu, the boom of Korean pop culture abroad, to share Korea's heritage with people around the globe.

Recently an Indonesian tribe decided to adopt Hangeul as their written language, and there was a good discussion about that in this comment section and continued on An Acorn in the Dog's Food. But I still wonder how something so closely tied to Korean culture and pride can coexist with globalization. Indeed the talk of globalizing the alphabet goes hand-in-hand with Hallyu, the effort to force spread Korean culture around the world. But it's not only 28-year-old bloggers who notice it; from the Chosun Ilbo today:
Academics, too, are wary of the charge of cultural imperialism. "A written language is not something that is deliberately supplied by the side that owns it, but borrowed by the side that needs it," said Kang Chang-seok, a professor of Korean language and literature at Chungbuk National University. "It's problematic to use words such as 'supply' or 'export' that can lead to negative perceptions."

Last year I made fun of the obsession with Hangeul a little bit. I especially liked this comment from a Korean fashion designer:
"When I was at the Moscow collection last year, clients came to see the show in clothes featuring Hangeul," Lie said. "I can't express how touched I was to see them. Can you imagine people walking around with our language printed on their shirts and pants?"

Christ Almighty, yes I can, and it's not pretty.

Or things like this preface to a textbook for learning Korean:
Language is the first precious intangible cultural properties in this world.
Writing is the first valuable tangible cultural propertie in this world.
Amog the rest, The Korean Language and Korean Writing are the greatest cultural inheritance of everything in the world.
Of course, there are only their language and writing in other country, too.
But their language and writing cannot express perfectly each and every.
The Korean Language and Korean Writing can express perfectly everything, everysound, all of thinking, and all of feeling of this world.
Like this, The Korean superior culture be Known to the general public, the foreigners are learning The Korean Language and writing, is getting more and more many.
This book is wrote for the sake of them.

There's no need to write out how we feel about crap like that, so instead I'll close with what Roboseyo had to say in the comment section:
Hangeul IS a great my opinion, the highest achievement of Korean culture, and Sejong IS my favourite Korean. I think they should combine a few of the Korean flag days (independence day, independence MOVEMENT day, memorial day) into one four day weekend, and give hangeul day the national no-work-status it deserves...
and then add a few extra characters for some of the foreign sounds that don't exist in Korean.


1994 said...

Korean history is a good read if you are a fan of fiction. Rumor has it that the turtle boats never existed. And Lee, Soon-shin had 137 naval battle wins and 0 losses. Any others?

letsbook said...

Korea is right to celebrate Hangeul Day... I think it's the last original thing that was made in Korea.

1994 said...


Puffin Watch said...

The "whip it to me can I come" tshirt I once saw on a middle aged Korean woman walking with her little kid. The mother was actually MILF material...

Speaking of hangul in North America, I saw this at Urban Outfitters in Toronto. Notice how they munge the P character. I guess to avoid trade mark theft.

Like the Korean desire to see their cuisine go international, they're going to have to do a very unKorean thing and think 3 steps ahead. When something goes international, you lose control of it, and people will modify it and use it in ways that will make the typical Korean's head explode with rage. To wit, I'd love to see hip Californians walking around with a tshirt written in hangul saying Takashima is Japan.

Ms Parker said...

I'm quite surprised that hangeul hasn't continued to evolve, as I believe that Sejong's original idea was to improve literacy.

As new sounds entered Korea, I'm wondering why the powers that be didn't unveil new hangeul characters to cover these new sounds - like f - instead of using the hard P or the odd combination of h and w (hwied chicken anyone?). This would have made it a truly exportable international language.

An Acorn in the Dog's Food said...

Ms Parker - you might be interested in reading my entry on hangeul, which Brian linked to in his post. It (briefly) discusses the disappearance of some letters from the alphabet (such as ones that correspond to the English 'f', 'v', and 'z'), consonant clusters that are no longer used (ᇏ, etc.), and the addition of 109 letters (80 consonants, 29 vowels) to those introduced during King Sejong's reign.

Puffin Watch said...

The lighting was all screwed up. Had to take the photo quickly. Didn't get a second chance. But this was the milf wearing the tshirt. (I've cropped out her child she was walking with.)