King Sejong (of the Joseon Dynasty) invented Korea’s official alphabet, known as ‘Hangeul’ (한글). Originally called ‘Hunminjeongeum’ (훈민정음), the language was conceived in 1443, and further promulgated by the King in 1446. Together with the help of his scholars, King Sejong gave the Korean people an alphabet they could easily read and write.
There are 3,000 spoken languages around the world and only 100 alphabets. Hangeul is the only alphabet invented without the influence of other languages, making it uniquely Korean. At the time of its inception, the language consisted of 17 consonants and 11 vowels however, since then, 3 of the originally established consonants and 1 vowel have fallen into disuse bringing the total number of characters to 24. Syllables are formed by the selective combination of vowels and consonants to create words. The official name for the Korean language was changed to ‘Hangeul’ in 1910.
Interestingly, ‘The Hunminjeongeum’, a historical document designed to educate people on the use of Hangeul, is now registered with UNESCO. UNESCO awards a ‘King Sejong Literacy Prize,’ every year in memory of the inventor of Hangeul.
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