[Letters] Globalizing Hangeul
Members of an indigenous group in the city of Bau-Bau, Indonesia have adopted Hangeul as their alphabet.
Indonesia is country where some indigenous communities do not have writing systems to convey their languages. People who speak the Cia-Cia language in Bau-Bau have decided to use Hangeul to write down their language, and people are hoping that it will help those who speak Cia-Cia become literate and enhance their level of education. However, more than anything else, this news shows the potential of the Korean alphabet becoming an alphabet of global usage.
In the long term, the globalization of the Korean alphabet would help Korea become a world power with rich cultural resources and respect from overseas.
Interestingly, I noticed the significance of Hangeul as I studied English.
Since I was a student of a foreign language high school, I put most of my time into studying English and related fields.
As I became more familiar with English, I suddenly wondered what makes the international society obsessed with learning English.
Simply through English, people develop familiarity toward the United States and absorb information from America without special difficulties. This gives the United States a favored status to reflect opinions of themselves in world media and enhance intercultural understanding provided from the United States’ perspective.
In other words, language is another form of power as it is an effective vehicle of identity and cultural expression.
Considering the undeniable influence of English in Korea, encouraging foreign countries to adopt Hangeul would result in more than improving literacy. It would definitely give Korea an advantage when it comes to expanding Korean culture, just as English did for the West.
Some say that it would be impossible to globalize Korean because of the small population of Korea. Indeed, it would be easy and natural if Korea had more than a billion people who used the Korean language.
However, it is shortsighted to say that the number of people using the national language equals the adaptability of that language. China is a country with a population of over a billion but it is unlikely to disseminate the Chinese language due its complexity and the language’s wide range of diversity across different regions.
Compared to Chinese, the Korean language is easy to learn and understand; it has a more scientific and logic-based design and arrangement than any other language.
Persuading those who speak Cia-Cia in Indonesia to acknowledge the greatness of Hangeul and finally broadening the territory of the Korean language are the first steps toward the globalization of Korea.
Korea would have a greater potential to become a global power if it facilitated the use of Hangeul as a route to spread Korean culture.
Seongnam Foreign Language High School