Published : 2010-03-30 14:40
Updated : 2010-03-30 14:40
A tribe in Indonesia has begun using Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, as their writing system to express their spoken aboriginal language, which is on the verge of extinction. It is the first time the alphabet has been officially adopted outside the Korean Peninsula.
The 60,000 person tribe in the city of Baubau, located in Buton of Souteast Sulawesi, has been working to transcribe its native language "Jjia jjia" into Hangeul.
The Baubau city counsel decided to adopt Hangeul as the official alphabet in July 2008. Work soon began and the textbooks were completed on July 16 this year. By July 21, elementary and high school students began learning their spoken language through the Hangeul writing system.
Textbooks were completed with the help of the Hunminjeongeum Society of Korea that is leading the Hangeul globalization project.
The next step includes setting up a Korean center and using Hangeul on their signposts across the city, as well as training Korean language teachers.
Hangeul has been lauded around the world by linguists for its logic-based structure. The language is a combination of 24 phonetic symbols.
"This is quite significant to see another race of people start using it. This will also greatly help our project that we believe will be a long-term one," Seoul National University linguistics professor and member of the Hunminjeongeum Society Lee Ho-young told The Korea Herald.
The textbook comprises writing, speaking and reading sections and also explains the tribe`s history, language and culture. It also has a Korean fairy tale. The entire book is written in Hangeul.
Due to a lack of writing system, the tribe has seen its language almost disappear.
"This will be all the more meaningful in an anthropological sense as well if Hangeul contributes to resurrect the dissipating language and culture," Kim Joo-won, head of the Hunminjeongeum Society said.
Hangeul was created in the mid-15th century when King Sejong the Great commissioned scholars to create a new language to differentiate Korea from China.
Organized into syllabic blocks, each consists of two or more 24 Hangeul letters that is comprised of 14 consonants and 10 vowels. These blocks take on the shape of how each is pronounced, and can be arranged both horizontally and vertically.
The Hunminjeongeum Society began its project to promulgate Hangeul abroad last year.
"In the long run, the spread of Hangeul will also help enhance Korea`s economy as it will activate exchanges with societies that use the language," Kim Joo-won said.
While past efforts to introduce Hangeul have been difficult, this time it was possible because of avid support by the local government, Seoul National University, said.
The association targets regions without their own alphabet where the local government would not oppose the efforts. It also takes into consideration whether the country has had close contact with Korea, such as those that send their nationals to work in Korea (like Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia and Vietnam).