Seoul pushes joint Korean dictionary project

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Seoul pushes joint Korean dictionary project

The South Korean prime minister on Tuesday reaffirmed the government’s will to restart efforts to compile a unified Korean-language dictionary with North Korea as his country observed Hangul Day, which marks the invention of the Korean alphabet more than five centuries ago.

“The Roh Moo-hyun government began a project to jointly publish the ‘Gyeoreomal-keunsajeon’ with North Korea in 2005 but it has been suspended amid the ups and downs of inter-Korean relations,” Lee Nak-yeon said during a national ceremony for the 572nd Hangul Day at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul. “Gyeoreomal-keunsajeon” means “Grand Korean Dictionary.”

Hangul was invented by King Sejong of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) in 1446 to promote literacy and give the state, which had relied on Chinese characters, its own alphabet.

“We were one nation when King Sejong invented Hangul. But the Cold War divided the Korean tribe and its territory into two,” Lee said. “The 70 years of division is changing the meaning and use of Korean words in the South and the North.”

The premier said the country should no longer delay efforts to understand differences with the North and narrow the gap. “I believe if this kind of thing accumulates, the Koreas can become one, as in the years ruled by King Sejong,” he emphasized.

The remarks come as the two Koreas seek ways to hold a working-level meeting this month in Kaesong, a North Korean town just north of the inter-Korean border. They will discuss a possible resumption of regular meetings of scholars on the project in late November or early December, according to the South Korean side committee on the program.

The last regular meeting was held in Dalian, China, in December 2015. The program was suspended in 2016 after a spate of nuclear and missile tests by the North.

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