Hangul Alphabet


The Korean alphabet (Hangul) is a system of writing the Korean language. It is phonemic – each sign corresponds to its own sound. It was developed in the XV century, and nowadays it is used in North Korea and South Korea.

The characters of the Korean alphabet are called chamo. There are 51 of them in total, including 24 simple letters (10 vowels, 14 consonants), 5 amplified (double) consonants, 11 digraphs and 11 diphthongs. The letters are not written one after another, but combined into syllables, which may consist of 2,3 or 4 chamos. Words are made up of syllables. For example: the word “school” in Korean Hakka 학교. The letters , , form the first syllable (hak) 학, and , form the second (ke) 교.

Before the Koreans had their own alphabet, they used Chinese characters (hancha). Hangul was developed by Korean scientists on the orders of King Joseon Sejong the Great in 1443. The basis could be  Mongolian square letter A840–A877 . In the document “Hongmin Chonim Hare”, dated 1446, King Senjong wrote that he created a new alphabet because the Korean language was different from Chinese, and Chinese characters were difficult to write for ordinary people. However, people disliked hangul. In 1504, King Yongsangun forbade writing documents and learning the new Korean alphabet. Therefore, until the twentieth century, it was mainly used by illiterate people. It became official again only in 1945.