Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tomorrow is Hangeul Day

Hangeul Day is a public holiday in Korea. It is the day to celebrate the creation of the super-unlocking codes of the Korean hieroglyphic system.

To explain to the lay person: Imagine ancient Egyptian wall paintings with dozens of similarly drawn symbols of animals, vegetables, cats, and finally there is a true meaning  to decipher. We get Indiana Jones or someone from the Mummy movie to decode it.

What if these codes are already unlocked? All you have to do to understand is to piece the puzzles together. The make it simple, usually the blocks of code are now arranged either 2 pieces per word or 3 pieces.

Another analogy or storyline is this. During the ancient times, the actual scripts used by the Middle Kingdom (zhong guo) and lands around the region is called hanja, or hua wen. It is essentially mini drawings of mountain (山 - doesn't it look like a mountain?), fish, people, objects, three-drops-of-water, etc. The ruler from the Joseon region thought of simplifying these for the commoner. In ancient times, most people are serfs or farmers, there's not much chance of education. So he cleverly devised a unique simplified system, that can be adapted and learned by common people in zero time. Hence, the creation of Hangeul.

Normal traditional hanja (chinese scripts) will take at least 5 years to master 20 000 words to be sufficiently proficient in the language, reading, writing, and dissemination of knowledge. Since each "mini drawing" is almost unique to each other, essentially a lay person would have to master 20 000 different paintings. 20 000 divide by 5 years, then 365 days, it means on average of mastering just 10 words a day, you need 5 years to master all of them.

So back to Hangeul, the scripts are now in blocks of 2 or 3. It's no more painting though it still does looks like that at some point. But essentially it is a soundless (no phonetics) system, flattened (instead of skeuomorph). 19 consonants and 10 vowels are building blocks.

To put it into practise, after deciphering the alphabets (minus the w sounding ones) mostly I can now read very slowly sentences, signboards, menus, or Kakao messages.

My T-Money card with Hangeul

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