A Guide to Korean - Korean characters
What's significant about Korean characters?
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Hangul: an introduction
There are two things that make the Korean script, Hangul, quite unique, at least among the major writing systems used in the world:
Firstly, rather than evolving from pictures or abstract shapes, the Korean script was a deliberate invention. The script was invented in (or around) 1443 by the Korean monarch King Sejong. Although the king was assisted by a group of young scholars, documents suggest that Sejong was personally responsible for devising the workings of the script
Secondly, the way that Korean is written is different to most writing systems. Although Korean is an alphabet (in which one shape largely corresponds to one sound), the letters are not written linearly. Instead, they are grouped into syllable blocks.
For example, the name of the script is written not as ㅎㅏㄴㄱㅡㄹ [h-a-n-g-u-l] but as 한글 [han-gul]. Thanks to the ingenuity of its creation, the Korean script has sometimes been called the most scientific writing system in the world
The writing system is known as Hangul in South Korea, and this is also the word that has been adopted into English. However, it should be noted that in North Korea, the script is known as Chǒsongǔl
The main pronunciation problem facing learners is that Korean has three different “sets” of consonants that correspond to the following English sounds: k, t, p and ch
The first set ㄱ, ㄷ, ㅂ, ㅈ (romanised as k, t, p, ch) are pronounced similar to the English, but slightly more relaxed
The second set ㅋ, ㅌ, ㅍ, ㅊ (romanised as k’, t’, p’, ch’) are pronounced accompanied by a strong puff of air. These are known as aspirated consonants
The third set ㄲ, ㄸ, ㅃ, ㅆ, ㅉ (romanised as kk, tt, pp, ss, tch) are pronounced with great force and tensing of mouth, but with no puff of air. These are known as reinforced consonants
Email and website conventions
When giving an email or website address the conventions are:
@ 골뱅이 [kolbaengi], literally sea snail
. 점 [chǒm], dot
/ 슬래시 [slash], forward slash