[EDITORIALS]Keeping hangeul intactOn the 557th Hangeul Day, the birthday of the Korean alphabet, we only feel bitterness. While the world admires the excellence of hangeul, we Koreans cannot be said to be properly performing our duty to keep the alphabet intact.
Of the more than 4,000 languages on Earth, only about 40 can be written using characters, among which hangeul takes pride in being the most developed phonemic system. UNESCO designated hangeul as a world cultural heritage and the birthday of the system’s founder, King Sejong, as Illiteracy Eradication Day, which is proof of hangeul’s eminence. But Koreans’ own competence in hangeul averages a mere 58.26 score out of 100. This cannot be more shameful.
Hangeul in general is facing a major threat. The use of foreign words is so common now that pointing out the problem is rather embarrassing. Words of unknown origin, which are written in hangeul but are not Korean, are pouring in as well. The meaningless association of hangeul and Chinese characters, and newly coined words mimicking English or Japanese pronunciation, are now a common sight as brand names or on commercal signs.
Furthermore, the words used by teenagers for Internet communication are now spreading through cell phone text messages. Even broadcast stations are warned by the Korean Broadcasting Commission against the use of destructive language in their programs.
If children acquire words used by teenagers for Internet chatting before they learn the correct spelling, they cannot preserve our language properly. Households and schools should take an interest in the matter as well. At the same time, we could take note of what the Oxford University Press of Britain has done. It included abbreviated words used on the Internet in its dictionary. We suggest that related academic circles scrutinize Internet slang to tell the good from the bad. Speech and writing must change with the times.
To stop hangeul’s useless destruction and to evolve with the changing times are the only ways to keep the beauty of hangeul forever.