Published : 2013-10-08 19:13
Updated : 2013-10-08 19:13
Reinstated as a national holiday after more than two decades, Hangeul-nal is marked today with a variety of events designed to celebrate the invention of the Korean alphabet in the mid-15th century.
Hangeul helped the Korean people keep their national identity through Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule. So, it was natural for the independent government installed in Seoul to have designated the day Hangeul was promulgated by King Sejong in 1446 as a national holiday.
Hangeul Day was excluded from the list of public holidays in 1990 on the ground that there were too many days off. Late last year, the previous government under President Lee Myung-bak made the right decision to reinstate Hangeul Day, which falls on Oct. 9, as a national holiday. This newspaper had joined voices calling for the measure.
The re-designation of Hangeul Day as a public holiday is needed not only to fully observe the invention of Korea’s most treasured cultural asset but help spread Korean culture and arts based on it across the world. It is also meaningful to let expatriates here as well as the Korean public have a full day of experiencing traditional and modern culture in the country and getting knowledge of Hangeul as its icon by attending events and programs.
To commemorate the 567th anniversary of the promulgation of the unique writing system, the Culture Ministry is hosting a weeklong festival that started Monday. It was pleasant to see a group of foreigners studying the Korean language performing in front of the statue of King Sejong in downtown Seoul during a festive event.
Hangeul Day should serve as an occasion to further strengthen efforts to meet the rising demand for learning Hangeul abroad and purify linguistic life among Koreans, especially the young generation.
The popularity of Korean pop culture, coupled with the country’s growing economic power, has led more foreigners to study Korean. The government has so far set up 117 Korean language education facilities, known as Sejong Institutes, in 51 countries. But there is still the need to increase the number of institutes and improve their programs.
Measures should also be worked out to provide foreigners learning Korean with more opportunities to study in Korea and work at Korean companies. In a survey of about 2,000 learners at Sejong Institutes around the globe, conducted early this year, 19.3 percent said they were willing to work at Korean enterprises while 15.8 percent wanted to study in Korea in the future. It should be noted that foreigners fluent in Korean and steeped in its culture can play the valuable role of bridging Korea and their respective countries.
What is worrying is the widespread vulgarism infecting our linguistic life. A recent survey by the National Institute of the Korean Language found 95 percent of teenagers polled commonly use slang or invectives in their everyday conversation. Efforts should be made by families, schools and society as a whole to promote the correct and decent use of our language as a foundation for achieving cultural prosperity and enhancing national competitiveness.