TIL In 1443, King Sejong single-handedly created Hangul, the Korean alphabet, in response to the immense difficulty that common people faced learning Chinese characters. The publication date of the document revealed in 1446 detailing the new alphabet is now a national holiday in both Koreas.

Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunminjeongeum#History

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  1. King Sejong had many other achievements that made him be regarded as one of the two greatest kings in Korean history. His reign was a golden age in the advancement of science, technology and agriculture. He appointed people based on merit rather than social class, and was known for his humanitarianism:

    >In 1426, Sejong the Great enacted a law that granted government nobi women 100 days of maternity leave after childbirth, which, in 1430, was lengthened by one month before childbirth. In 1434, Sejong also granted the husbands 30 days of paternity leave.

    >In order to provide equality and fairness in taxation for the common people, Sejong the Great issued a royal decree to administer a nationwide public opinion poll regarding a new tax system called Gongbeop in 1430. Over the course of 5 months, the poll surveyed 172,806 people, of which approximately 57% responded with approval for the proposed reform.

    As for the creation of the alphabet, it is widely assumed that he oversaw scholars who invented Hangul, but sources such as the [Veritable Records of the Joseon Dynasty](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veritable_Records_of_the_Joseon_Dynasty) emphasized that he invented it himself.

    Sejong wrote a preface to the 1446 document, explaining the origin and purpose of Hangul and providing brief examples and explanations.
    The famous 1st paragraph goes like this:

    >Because the speech of this country is different from that of China, the spoken language does not match the Chinese letters. Therefore, even if the ignorant want to communicate, many of them, in the end, cannot successfully express themselves. Saddened by this, I have had 28 letters newly made. It is my wish that all the people may easily learn these letters and that they be convenient for daily use.

    The new alphabet found immediate success among the people, but was opposed by the literary elite, as their social status was built upon extensive knowledge of Chinese characters, which were under the threat of becoming obsolete. Later kings banned the use of Hangul, after a document criticizing the king was published. But the alphabet saw a revival in the late 16th and 17th centuries, as gasa and sijo poetry flourished and Hangul novels became a major genre.

    Hangul was standardized in the beginning of the Japanese occupation and allowed to be taught in schools, but harsh policies of cultural assimilation later on banned the Korean language in schools in Korea and all Korean-language publications were outlawed during WW2. Today, both North and South Korea uses the same version of Hangul, with only slight differences to spelling.

  2. “According to recent investigations, the Korean alphabet was derived from the Mongol ʼPhags-pa script” […] ʼPhags-pa contributed none of the things that make this script perhaps the most remarkable in the world.”^1

    ^1 The origin, background, and Early History of the Korean Alphabet, Gari Keith Ledyard. University of California, 1966

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