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Teachers to spread the word about Hangul

Sept 19,2009
Children from the 60,000-strong Cia-Cia tribe who live on Buton Island, off southeastern Sulawesi in Indonesia, learn to write their own language using the Korean alphabet, Hangul, on Sept. 10. [YONHAP]
Native Korean teachers will be dispatched to a minority tribe on an Indonesian island next March or April to help an Indonesian teacher teaching Hangul, the Korean alphabet, to indigenous people, according to the Hunminjeongeum Society yesterday.

One of the teachers, Abidin, a native of Baubau on Buton Island, off southeastern Sulawesi in Indonesia, asked the society for help teaching third-graders from the 60,000-strong Cia-Cia tribe who live on the island.

Hunminjeongeum is the original term for Hangul and means the “correct sounds for the instruction of the people.”

Abidin, 32, is one of two teachers who came to Seoul for a six-month training course in Hangul at Seoul National University earlier this year.

He is part of a project run by Korean linguists, members of the society led by Kim Ju-won, a professor at Seoul National University.

Kim has created writing systems and textbooks using Hangul for the tribe, which doesn’t have its own writing systems, to record their verbal languages.

The society is trying to propagate the Korean alphabet across the globe and the Indonesian tribe is the first to import the system.

Lee Ki-nam, founder of the society, is a direct descendant of King Sejong, who created the alphabet in the 15th century.

When he was in Korea, Abidin finished level two out of a total of four Korean language courses. “I couldn’t continue Korean studies any longer because I had to take care of my family back home,” he was quoted as saying in a recent interview with Yonhap News Agency.

He said his colleague who was also training to teach Hangul went back home 45 days after arriving in Seoul because of cold weather and the food. “He said he may have died if he stayed longer,” Abidin said of his ex-colleague.

“Admittedly, my Korean is not that good,” Abidin said, which is why he has asked the society to send some Korean teachers. He hopes to visit Korea again to improve his language skills further.

He said he was invited by the mayor of Baubau to become a Hangul teacher, “probably because [he is] a fluent English speaker and a Cia-Cia.”


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]



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