[VIEWPOINT]Koreans should embrace Hangeul

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[VIEWPOINT]Koreans should embrace Hangeul

We made a huge mistake during the World Cup in June. We failed to widely introduce the Korean alphabet, or Hangeul, to the world.

We lost an excellent opportunity that will not come again. We could have left a strong impression on the world by expressing "Red Devils" and "The Myth of Korea's Advancement to the Semi-final," in Korean.

Hangeul could have gained popularity as a national trademark. In addition, it was an opportunity for Hangeul to become our best cultural trademark.

Perhaps the reason we failed to seize this opportunity was our lack of affection for Korean and the wide use of foreign language in our daily life.

The Korean language has virtually stopped coining new vocabulary in recent years. Our new vocabulary is composed of negative words such as "jopok," slang for organized crime, and "makgapa," or rambunctious gang. In addition, terminology from foreign languages -- synergy, consulting, venture, consortium, agenda, online and offline -- are used in our daily life as new words. Even the grammatical order of Korean has changed, and pronunciation has changed to that of English.

The Korean-language policy has long since vanished. English letters have now taken over the position that was once dominated by Chinese characters. In the past, Korean pundits used Chinese characters.

Today, they use English. In many ways, Korean is turning into a supplementary or lower-class language. Because English has been taken up at the center of our daily life, consciously or unconsciously, the Korean people are being swayed by a form of language inferiority consciousness.

Those who assert the joint use of English, or those who support the new free-market movement, fuss that if we don't use English we will fail in the era of globalization.

They insist that the only way to win in the competitive capitalist society and the new economic order is to use English.

They claim the world is one and that we should throw away regionalism and join the wave of globalization.

Is the world one? Is the United States us? Is our land as big as the United States? Is our military strong? Is our culture the same? Does our food taste similar? What is so similar with the rest of the world?

The time to insist upon similarities has passed. Denying differences to equalize diversity arithmetically can only be found in militaristic and totalitarian societies.

Categorizing or arguing the rights and wrongs of different things is an outdated conception. In order to properly understand the world today, one must acknowledge the differences and respect them. The existence of different languages, cultures, customs and way of thinking should be accepted.

While language holds the values of an era, it has to create new values constantly. Therefore, language is always actively changing. The ongoing change of a language reflects the characteristics of the people who use it. But regrettably we are becoming a guest of our own language and not the owner.

I pride myself that my dream of painting a masterpiece is beyond those of others. But how are good paintings drawn? In order to draw an excellent painting, a painter should first be talented, and then his skills should be continuously trained.

The painter should also have a strong will to accomplish a goal through his work. But with all this, a good painting cannot be created without eyes that see the world straight.

In other words, a painter can only project his ability when properly acknowledging the world. Otherwise, a painter will only harm his society, like the pro-Japanese artists during the Japanese colonial rule.

Then, in what ways should a person properly recognize the world? I believe it is through writing and words. We cannot deny the fact that the language a group uses determines their reality and social awareness.

For us, the language is Korean.

I am writing about the importance of our language so I can draw a good painting. If our language is not properly used, I cannot exhibit a proper painting.


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The writer is a painter.

by Lim Ok-sang

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