Photo: A re-published edition fo Hunminjeongeum Hyerebon, the 1446 book by King Sejong the Great explaining how his newly invented alphabet worked. Credit: Kyobo Books.
October 9, 2021 was the 95th Hangeul Day 한글날, the only national holiday in the world that celebrates an alphabet. King Sejong the Great 세종대왕, with the help of royal scholars, invented hangeul in 1443 and publicized it in 1446, in order to match the alphabet to the spoken language of Korea and improve literacy. Recognizing the intent of the alphabet, one of the two annual prizes awarded by UNESCO to celebrate literacy is named the King Sejong Literacy Prize.
The first Hangeul Day took place in 1926 during the Japanese occupation, on the 480th anniversary of the first use of hangeul. Both North and South Korea celebrate Hangeul Day, although North Korea’s version is on January 15.
In his remarks, President Moon Jae-in 문재인 대통령 noted the bond of hangeul and the same language that connect the two Koreas, as well as the growing international popularity of learning the Korean language. (See previous coverage, “Daebak in the Oxford English Dictionary.”)