[EDITORIALS]Evolution or perversion?Martin Heidegger, a 20th century German philosopher, called language "the house of being." Language is a container of ideas and culture. That is why language can be used as a yardstick to differentiate a culture or a people. Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, is a part of the language that defines us as Koreans.
The Korean language is facing a threat from the globalization-powered English language. To make matters worse, even the hangeul alphabet is now under attack, in the form of outrageously errant characters that inundate the Internet. Messages posted on the Web have been becoming increasingly cryptic, with a mix of hangeul and foreign characters that destroy the local language. Many Korean youngsters change vowels and consonants of Korean words or mix foreign words with Korean ones so haphazardly that older folks are lost.
According to a recent survey, 70 percent of middle and high school students in Korea are affected by that "Internet language," which has become a part of the teen subculture and has taken deep root in our language life. Such a great number of students are exposed to the disrupted hangeul that even schools and teachers cannot do anything to reverse the trend. Some Internet sites even offer computer programs that translate such errant writing for us old fogies.
Still, it is not a good idea to crack down on young people just because they are breaking our language code. We should consider it a cultural and generational phenomenon that has combined with the Internet culture. Once we understand more about the way young people are redefining their language, we should try to draw up language standards that are flexible enough to accommodate the information and globalization era without destroying the language.
We urge the National Academy of the Korean Language to take the initiative to guide the development of our language and preserve our Korean identity. Such an effort will also narrow the language gap between generations.