Friday 9th October is Hanguel Day, which commemorates the creation of the Korean alphabet. Remember that Korean song Gangnam Style? In Hanguel, Gangnam Style is spelt 강남 스타일. As you can see the Hanguel alphabet is very different to any of the European alphabets. This may come across as daunting to learn, but it’s actually much easier to learn Korean than Chinese or Japanese because there are only 24 letters. It was created by the much-loved King Sejong the Great in the 15th century – before this Koreans used Hanja; based on the Chinese alphabet, this was much more difficult to learn as there are so many characters.
The most popular song of 2012 was of course, 강남 스타일.
Hanguel is phonetic, so it’s easy to pronounce words you don’t know because the words are spelt the way they sound. In a way, learning Korean is actually simpler than English, with so many English words pronounced very differently to how they are written. One example is the word colonel: if you were to pronounce this phonetically you might say co-lone-l or col-on-el rather than the correct kernal.
In the Library we have embarked on a special cataloguing project to celebrate Hanguel Day. A collection of books in Korean, relating to literature and social studies, were donated by a patron and will be available on the Library Catalogue shortly. The Library already has quite a collection of resources in both English and Korean for Korean language studies, travel, culture, academic studies and literature – e.g. try this search.
You can, apparently, learn the Korean alphabet in one morning.
If you don’t fancy that, you can get a deeper insight into an aspect of Korean life by reading some of the great novels that have been translated into English. One novel that recently arrived in the Library is The Girl Who Wrote Loneliness (shelfmark 895.784 SIN:6 R5) written by Man Asian Literary Prize winner Kyung-Sook Shin (review here). Happy Hanguel Day!
Text by Helena Byrne