I wanna dedicate this post to the inventor of the Korean alphabet, who is famous by the title Sejong the Great (세종 대왕). If you’re learning Korean and just start memorizing hangul, I think it’s best to also know the origin of how it was created and who did that. So let’s get started…
King Sejong was born in 1397 with the name Yi Do. He was the 4th King of the Joseon Dynasty. King Sejong was a quick learner, who loved science and technology which he implemented to his kingdom’s military forces. He supported the development of new types of cannons and mortars, as well as rocket-like “fire arrows” that functioned in a similar way to modern rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). Other than that, he also supported a number of inventions or refinements of previous technologies such as a moveable metal type for printing, rain gauge, sundials, unusually accurate water clocks, and maps of the stars and celestial globes, just to name a few.
However, his greatest achievement was the invention of hangul, the Korean alphabet which you can learn from the previous post. At that time, commoners couldn’t read and write so they were often face inconvenienced and at a disadvantage. He felt pity for them that led him to invented hangul. He was a true leader who loved people beyond their social status.
King Sejong along with his eight advisers developed an alphabetical system to accurately represent Korean language sounds and sentence structure. They came up with a simple system of 14 consonants and 10 vowels, which can be arranged in clusters to create all of the sounds in spoken Korean.
Hangul was first announced in 1446 and during those times, King Sejong faced a backlash from the scholar elite. They felt the new system was vulgar as they didn’t want women and peasants to be literate. Despite this circumstance, hangul quickly spread among the population that previously didn’t have enough education access to learn the complicated Chinese writing system.
Early texts claimed that a clever person can learn Hangul in a few hours, while someone with a lower IQ can master it in 10 days. It’s undoubtedly one of the most logical and straightforward writing systems that existed on Earth. What a delightful gift from a wise king to his subjects and their descendants passed on to the present day.
Today, the king is remembered as Sejong the Great and his face appears on South Korea’s currency, the 10,000 won bill. There are also cities, roads and buildings named after him which show how much Koreans love and respect the king.
You can also find his golden statue in the downtown of Seoul near Gyeongbokgung Palace and Gwanghwamun Gate. And there’s a passageway behind the statue that leads to a museum known as the Story of King Sejong Exhibition Hall. You can learn about his accomplishments and contributions to the development of South Korea.
There’s actually a drama dedicated to King Sejong and you can watch it here. And another version with much shorter episodes which focuses more on the king’s favored subject because of his abilities and intelligence, Jang Yeong Sil.