Koreans have developed and use a unique alphabet called Hangeul. It is considered to be one of the most efficient alphabets in the world and has garnered unanimous praise from language experts for its scientific design and excellence.
Hangeul was created under King Sejong during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). In 1446, the first Korean alphabet was proclaimed under the name Hunminjeongeum, which literally meant "the Correct Sounds for the Instruction of the People."
King Sejong, the motivating force behind Hangeul , is considered to be one of the greatest rulers in the history of Korea. Highly respected for his benevolent disposition and diligence, King Sejong was also a passionate scholar whose knowledge and natural talent in all fields of study astounded even the most learned experts.
The Chinese script was used by the intelligentsia of the country, but being of foreign origin, it could not fully express the words and meaning of Korean thoughts and spoken language. Therefore, common people with legitimate complaints had no way of submitting their grievances to the appropriate authorities, other than through oral communication, and they had no way to record for posterity the agricultural wisdom and knowledge they had gained through years of experience.
King Sejong felt great sympathy for the people. As a wise ruler strongly dedicated to national identity and cultural independence, he immediately searched for solutions. What he envisioned was an alp2003/06/10habet that was uniquely Korean and easily learnable, rendering it accessible and usable for the common people.
Thus, the Hunminjeongeum was born.When first proclaimed by King Sejong, Hunminjeongeum had 28 letters in all, of which only 24 are in use today.
The reason consonants and vowels were separated was due to their differing functions when two letters were combined to form a syllable. Hunminjeongeum is basically a form of hieroglyph. Consonants, the initial sound letters, resemble a person's speech organs. The shape of each letter is based on the form of different sound articulation units.
King Sejong and the scholars of the Jiphyeonjeon, inventors of the Korean alphabet, considered human sounds as being more than mere physical phenomena. They assumed that an invisible yet more powerful principle was the controlling force behind these phenomena. They adhered to the principle that human sounds and all universal phenomena are based on eum-yang (negative-positive) and ohaeng (the five primary elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth). Hence, they thought it natural that there be a common link between sounds and the changing of the seasons and between sounds and music.
A Korean syllable is divided into three parts: choseong (initial consonant), jungseong (vowel), and jongseong (final consonant). This is the basic framework that King Sejong and the Jiphyeonjeon scholars adhered to when creating the letters. Jongseong was not separately created and was a repetition of the choseong. Therefore, Hangeul is capable of creating thousands of words by combining the consonants and vowels.