Appreciate Hangul properlyToday is the day we celebrate the 567th year since the invention of Hangul, the native Korean alphabet. This year’s birthday is special because the day has been redesignated a national holiday for the first time in 23 years, to better appreciate Hangul and the respect it gets on the global stage today. We should not regard the day simply as a day off, but take a moment to value our language and alphabet as a symbol of Korean identity.
Hangul and the Korean language no longer are our exclusive assets. They are used as the mother tongue and alphabet for 79 million people around the world. More and more foreigners are learning our language for commerce, exchange and everyday use. The government-sponsored King Sejong Institute, or Sejong Hakdang, dedicated to the promotion of the Korean language and Hangul, has 117 centers in 51 countries. Its Web site, www.sejonghakdang.org, runs Korean classes in 11 languages.
Despite the rising global status of the Korean language and Hangul, we are lacking in the appreciation of and commitment to preserving their accuracy and beauty. Experts worry about the serious damage and distortions happening to our language and Hangul because of our digital and globalized world. Swearing has become common among kids. Students fare poorly in grammar, spelling and writing. Internet slang has become common due to texting, instant messaging and social networking. Students and adults alike have difficulty differentiating standard language from slang. Abbreviations and new words often replace dictionary words. Incorrect phrases pop up on online menus and in advertisements. Many foreign words have not been standardized into Korean.
Experts say our language and Hangul are in an identity crisis. Language and spelling is a promise among people. They therefore must be used accurately. Muddled language and spelling could disrupt and undermine communication and knowledge. Endeavors to preserve our language and Hangul, with their uniqueness and accuracy, are a key part of sustaining our identity. The struggle to defend our language and Hangul during the colonial days should be remembered as the most important independence movement.
Honorable individual and group activities online and offline to preserve our language and Hangul raise hope. There are online campaigns correcting spelling and grammar mistakes. Many who contribute to the National Institute of the Korean Language’s Web site make suggestions to replace foreign words in our language. We must all be active and devoted to preserving our language.