Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hangeul and Korea's Information Society

Tomorrow, it turns out, is the 563rd anniversary of the promulgation of Hangeul by King Sejong. An opinion piece in the Korea Times provides some interesting background, but I'd like to emphasize a bit more, in relation to the central focus of this blog.
  • Because the Korean alphabet is so scientific and phonetic, it was an important factor in accelerating the uptake of computers, mobile phones and all sorts of digital electronic devices here.
  • It is possible to type much faster on a hangeul computer keyboard than on a qwerty English keyboard--much faster! Just watch any reasonably skilled Korean typing and you'll see what I mean.
  • Because Hangeul is alphabetic, it was conducive to the rapid development and growth of the graphics industry, which began back in the 1980's. Some of us remember when there were no Korean fonts, only calligraphy.
  • Literacy is an essential requirement for the information society and Hangeul helped promote it in Korea. For years now, South Korea has had near-universal literacy.
On the occasion of Hangeul's 563rd anniversary, it is well to remember the above points. People from North America or Europe frequently lump the Korean alphabet in with Chinese and Japanese and assume that it is a pictographic writing system. To the contrary, it is alphabetic, scientific and an important factor in explaining the rapid digital development in Korea over the past three decades or so!

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