Understanding Korea materials - Hangeul: 5.2 Establishment of Korean Orthography

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Understanding Korea Series No.1
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1) Records Written in Hangeul 2) Establishment of Korean Orthography Appendix: Korean Romanization

5. History of Hangeul Usage

2) Establishment of Korean Orthography

Huminjeongeum haerye published in 1446 explain the new script and its usage after the invention of Hunminjeoneum. Therefore, Hunminjeongeum haerye can be seen as the first Hunminjeongeum or Hangeul writing convention. There were no other rules on Hangeul established until the 19th century. Instead, Hangeul writing conventions had been evolving naturally according to the changes in Korean. This is related to the fact that Hangeul is a phonetic alphabet with separate consonant letters representing consonant sounds and vowel letters representing vowel sounds.

The establishment of a convention for script that denotes spoken language is closely related to the development of the concept of a national state. This was the same in Korea, where Koreans began to recognize the need for the establishment of a writing convention towards the end of 19th century. An article in Volume 46 of Gojongsillok, recorded on July 9, 1905 includes an entry by Ji Seokyeong who suggests, ‘Gukmun (national script) to be organized and taught in more convenient way’. The article recorded a few days later, on July 19, states that Gukmun was reformed as Ji Seokyeong suggested, and Sinjeong Gukmun (新訂國文) was announced. However, Ji Seokyeong’s Sinjeong Gukmun was to be entangled in endless controversies. On July 8, 1907, the government set up Gukmun Yeonguso (Research Institute of the National Script) within, Academic Department of the Government that would become the focal point for discussions on research, current usage and future developmental prospects of Hangeul. In December of 1909, eight researchers of Gukmun Yeonguso presented a report on the current issues regarding Gukmun called Gukmun Yeongu Euijeongan (國文硏究議定安). However, since the Great Korean Empire met its demise in 1910, the government was not able to function as a governing body, and Gukmun Yeongu Euijeongan – which could have served as the foundation for modern Korean writing standards – was not able to be adopted.

During the Japanese Occupation, the Government-General of Korea restarted the standardization of the Hangeul writing convention. The Government-General announced the Korean Spelling System for Elementary Education called Botonghakgyoyong Eonmun Cheoljabeop (普通學校用 諺文綴字法) in April of 1912, but it was extremely simple and included numerous parts that did not fit the reality of the Korean language at the time. The Government-General reissued the outline of the Korean Spelling System for Elementary Education called Botonghakgyoyong Eonmun Cheoljabeop Daeyo (普通學校用 諺文綴字法 大要) in March of 1921, and in February of 1930, published the Korean Spelling System called Eonmum Cheoljabeop (諺文綴字法).

It is also significant that not only Japanese, but also many Korean scholars were involved in the three-phase Hangeul writing system standardization attempts led by the Government-General. That is why the first orthographic rule announced in 1912 preferred phonetic spelling, while the last system published in 1930 evolved into a morphophonemic system similar to the present day. This is due to the Korean scholars’ insistence that the Hangeul tradition of representing morphophonemic forms had to be reflected.

The role Joseoneo Hakhoe (Korean Language Research Society) played in relation to this process must also be noted.16 This society led the Hangeul movement and worked hard to standardize the Korean orthography. In the general assembly held on December 13, 1930, Joseoneo Hakhoe members agreed to establish the Standardized Hangeul Writing System called Hangeul Machumbeop Tongilan, and composed the first draft in December 1932. They deliberated and corrected the original draft to reach the final version, and announced it on October 29, 1933.

The current Korean orthography in use in Korea was revised in 1988 based on the Hangeul Machumbeop Tongilan announced by Joseneo Hakhoe in 1933.

Understanding Korea Series No.1 Hangeul

Foreword · Acknowledgments

1. Korean Language and Hangeul in East Asia · Appendix: Korean and the Altaic Family

2. Transcription of Korean Using Chinese Characters

3. The Creation of Hunminjeongeum · 3.1 King Sejong and Hunminjeongeum · Appendix: King Sejong and Jiphyeonjeon(The Academy of Worthies) · 3.2 The Design Principles of Hunminjeongeum Letters · Appendix: Various Hypotheses on the Creation of Hunminjeongeum · Appendix: Special Features of the Korean Alphabet(called Hunminjeoneum or Hangeul) · 3.3 The Phonological Features of the 28 Letters of Hunminjeongeum · Appendix: The Philosophical Background of Hunminjeongeum · 3.4 Letter Usage

4. Changes of Hangeul · 4.1 Changes in the Name: From Hunminjeongeum to Hangeul · 4.2 Changes of Letters

5. History of Hangeul Usage · 5.1 Records Written in Hangeul · 5.2 Establishment of Korean Orthography · Appendix: Korean Romanization · 5.3 The Script Reform: Mixed Script to Hangeul-only Script

6. Hangeul Now

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