[Letters] Expanding territories of Hangul

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[Letters] Expanding territories of Hangul

A writing system is crucial to the inheritance of human culture, civilizations and sciences. Although differential and integral calculus was originally invented in China, the absence of means to express and convey it disabled the mathematicians to teach it to their junior scholars, and thus it was soon lost. It is deplorable that the rapid spread of international languages such as English in parallel with the mega-trend of globalization is upsetting the linguistic ecology of the contemporary and future world. Unesco has reported that some 200 languages have already disappeared and 2,500 out of 6,912 existing ones are in danger of extinction owing to the lack of their semiotic device.

By virtue of its scientific and logic-based design and arrangement, Hangul is lauded by world linguists as an easy language to learn and teach as well as convenient to use. As combinations of 24 Hangul characters are capable of denoting over 11,000 different phonemes with 80 syllabics, the Korean alphabet is known to be a far more efficient phonological system than the International Phonetic Alphabet based on the Roman scripture. The implant of Hangul in Indonesia’s Bau-Bau city has opened a wide horizon for the future of Hangul to its new territories to enhance literacy of people in every nook and cranny around the world. Hangul is useful to safeguard endangered languages and even resurrect defunct ones by offering quality education and training while respecting the learners’ cultural identity.

Languages, as essential vehicles of identity and cultural expression, are inseparable from the goals of peace and intercultural understanding. As each and every language is valuable human heritage, so is Hangul itself. That is why the Hangul globalization project of the Hunminjeongeum Society has to be supported both nationally and internationally. It is hoped that the King Sejong Literacy Prize which was launched by Unesco in 1990 will recognize the project. Active assistance is needed for the success of the project from international entities such as Linguapax, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of linguistic diversity and multilingual education worldwide. Linguapax emerged from a Unesco experts meeting in 1987 and has its headquarters in Barcelona. Another worldwide nonprofit organization is SIL International, formerly called the Summer Institute of Linguistics. This NGO was founded in 1934 and is headquartered in Dallas, Texas. Its main purpose is to study, develop and document lesser-known languages in order to expand linguistic knowledge, promote literacy and aid minority language development.

The Hangul globalization project therefore is destined to make great contributions to promoting linguistic and cultural diversity of mankind. The mainstay of programs that all the flagship cultural institutions of major states - British Council, Goethe Institute, Alliance Francais, Cervantes Institute, Japan Foundation and Confucius Academy, to name a few ?? undertake is to promote their spoken and written language. If Hangul is used for a majority of tribal languages around the world, the Korean wave will prevail more steadily and smoothly. The dissemination of Hangul software will entail the spread of Korean folk stories, pop culture and eventually the language.

Active patronage by the government is essential for the success of the project. The National Institute of the Korean Language and the Korea Foundation are supposed to be suitable agencies to take charge of supporting the project. The need for support does not stop in finance, but more important is administrative and diplomatic backup to garner international auspices and pave the way for overseas local authorities to get prepared to welcome this endeavor. A graduate school must be established to produce Korean language teachers who are proficient in foreign languages.

Jaebum Kim, professor emeritus at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security
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