The History of the Korean Language (Hangul)

The history of writing systems in Korean peninsula begins with the Chinese characters arriving in Korea together with Buddhism during the Proto-Three Kingdoms era from BC 57 to AD 660. It was adapted for Korean and became known as Hanja, and remained as the main script for writing Korean through over a millennium alongside various phonetic scripts that were later invented such as Idu and Gugyeol. Mainly privileged elites were educated to read and write in Hanja, however, most of the population was illiterate as Hanja was very difficult to learn and most people did not have enough time to learn this difficult writing system.


In the interest of decreasing illiteracy, King Sejong the Great developed an alphabetic featural writing system known today as Hangul in 15th century. The king felt that the Hanja was inadequate to write for the nation and was difficult to learn as well, so the illiterates were increasing. The Hangul was designed to either aid to read Hanja in speech sound or replace Hanja entirely at the beginning and such intention  was originally Introduced in the document called  "Hunminjeongeum"(훈민정음). However, the system was denounced by the Korean aristocrat in Conservative Party due to its simplicity. It used to be called "Morning letter" meaning that it can be learnt within one morning. The Korean nobles were against the use of Hangul and gave the system different nick name such as "Eonmun" (colloquial script). However, it quickly spread nationwide, accordingly it increased the level of literacy in Korea also played vital role in reducing the knowledge gaps in between the aristocrats and the peasants. Despite that the Hangul was widely used by all Korean classes, the official documents were still written in Hanja during the Choseon era due to the insistence of a conservative aristocratic class.


Today, Hangul is largely used in everyday life in Korea and officially recognised as Korean Character. The Hangul is used by the Korean people in North Korea and South Korea and by the Korean diaspora in many countries including the People's Republic of China, the United StatesJapan, and Russia. Currently, Korean is the fourth most popular foreign language in China, following English, Japanese, and Russian. Korean-speaking minorities exist in these states, but because of cultural assimilation into host countries, not all ethnic Koreans may speak it with native fluency.