Korean Script ‘Wins’ Controversial ‘Alphabet Olympics’

The official photo of the World Alphabet Olympics

News articles bragging about the efficacy of the Korean script (hangul) are hardly rare in the Korean media, particularly since the official Hangul Day has just passed. For one day, it’s tolerable, and understandable: Koreans highly value education and there are still many old people who remember the days when they could not afford to learn hangul. On the face of it therefore, a recent article on hangul winning the World Alphabet Olympics seemed at first glance to be a ‘quintessential’ Hangul Day article.

However, after further investigation, the Committee of the World Alphabet Olympics and the World Alphabet Academy (the key figures in both organisations are Korean) seems not to be as ‘fair and just’ as they would like Koreans to believe so. Although it looks like the committee invited ‘scholars of various nationalities’ to hold the contest, they seem to have hidden agendas beyond the more menial objective of ‘finding the most competent writing system.’

According to the official website of the committee, their ‘mission’ is to disseminate hangul and Christianity across the world, a goal they justify by arguing that it was the distribution of a Korean Bible, translated by a British Missionary, that catalysed the ‘March 1st Movement’ and ultimately therefore, Korea’s economic success. Furthermore, they appear to be engaging in fairly comprehensive missionary work, using Hangul, as well.

In the Reverend/Doctor Bae Soon-jik (chairman of the contest)’s keynote speech of the first ‘Alphabet Olympics’, he solely attributes the growth of the Turkish economy to ‘discarding Arabic and adopting Latin’ as their script, seemingly neglecting to mention the reforms of Kemal Ataturk. In essence, Bae argues that ‘The better alphabet a nation has, the more economic success it will have.’ And, since they already believe hangul to be the ‘best alphabet’ out there, why not take it on a mission to spread a few miracles of both the economic and celestial kind?

Rev Bae Soon-jik's keynote speech for the first World alphabet Olympics

Translation of above: Without hangul, the March 1st Movement and Korea’s $10,000 GDP per capita would’ve been impossible and the distribution of this wonderful writing system is attributed to the early Korean Christians. Now it is the mission of the Korean Christian community to make Hangul an international writing system.

May the Holy Spirit with the orthography contest

May the Holy Spirit be with the Orthography Contest

Netizens are raising doubts surrounding the credibility of the committee as well. Although not reflected in the following comments, more reactions can be found here, here, and here. For further information on their ‘mission’, check out the 1st Alphabet Olympics and the 2nd Alphabet Olympics (revised homepage).

From Nate:

Hangul wins ‘Gold’ at ‘World Alphabet Olympics’

The official photo of the World Alphabet Olympics

Hangul won a ‘Gold Medal’ at the ‘World Alphabet Olympics’ which intends to choose the most comprehensive and effective script.

The World Alphabet Academy announced on the 9th of October that hangul ranked first at the second World Alphabet Olympics, held from the 1st to the 4th of October in Bangkok, Thailand.

The runner-up was India’s Telugu followed by the English [Latin] alphabet.

27 countries took part in the contest: including countries with their own writing systems such as Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and India; with the rest of them being adopted or devised foreign orthographies.

The scholars from those 27 countries were each given 30 minutes to explain the excellence of their writing systems. The jurors were from following 6 countries: America, India, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Portugal.

The evaluation categories were each of the writing system’s origins, structure and patterns, combining ability, independent-nature, as well as potentials for further development and applicability.

The contest started from a simple thought, ‘Is it possible to hold an Olympic game about Orthography?’

In October 2009, 16 countries with their own scripts participated in the first Alphabet Olympics; and even back then, hangul ranked first, with Greece and Italy taking silver and bronze respectively.

Lee Yang-ha, the Chief of organiser of this Olympics and a former ambassador to Lebanon said that ‘If governments were allowed to influence this contest, then it would not be fair and just enough. So we have kept it as a non-government, academic community-centred contest,’ and ‘several professors who participated as observers from National Universities in Africa showed their wishes to adopt Hangul as their national orthographies.’

Lee explained, the ‘26 letters of English orthography is capable of expressing 300 kinds of sounds and more; and hangul can theoretically express more than 11,000 sounds and, practically, 8,700 sounds. In particular, Hangul excels at time-efficient communication.’

Prof Lee Sang-ok at Seoul National University who participated as a hangul delegate said ‘Given the fact that the jurors were outstanding linguists from across the world, it is safe to say hangul is without a doubt one of the best scripts in the world.’

Each scholar who participated in the Olympics announced a ‘Bangkok Declaration’ and pledged to distribute Hangul by installing short-term Korean classes at the Department of Korean studies in their universities.

Meanwhile, former ambassador Lee added, ‘Unlike languages, writing systems rarely change. Since this year’s contest included not only invented orthographies but also devised ones, I think this year should be the de facto last year of holding this contest.’

Comments from Nate:

성원제:

Let’s be proud of hangul and use proper Korean.

나세근:

Hangul can express every sound you can imagine. I’m not surprised.

진유진:

I’m glad to read this article on Hangul Day.^^ It’s my honour to use this excellent script as our own! I’ll try my best to use proper Korean with this beautiful hangul. Thank you, King Sejong, the great.

신용희:

We have to thank Sejong the great for working hard to let us use such a nice writing system.

양윤식:

Today’s Hangul Day. Let’s pull out a 10,000 won note and show our respect to him. [King Sejong is on the note]

박종남:

Let’s make Hangul Day as a National Day. And stupid teenagers who are destroying our language, shame on you!

박지민:

Korea is such a small country, yet it sure has its strength.

변석영:

Thank you Sejong the Great! I’ll never forget Hangul Day!

박대안:

There’s no doubt in hangul’s excellence. It’s time for us to protect and develop it.

이승훈:

I’m moved by the fact that this great writing system was born out of his [Sejong] love for his people.ㅜㅜ

유한글:

Let’s love hangul!

김서희:

Today’s Hangul Day. I’ve realised its importance once again.

김진훈:

Ah.. I’m so proud of it!!

김진관:

Even the world recognises hangul. We’ve got to protect and develop it to the point it becomes ‘international writing system’ ke There were no Koreans among the jurors, yet hangul won the first prize. That’s some achievement. Today’s international language, the English writing system, won the third. ke ke ke It’ll be hurtful for some countries to adopt hangul as their alphabets. Anyways, I like this article!!

김소명:

Foreigners seem more appreciative of hangul than us Koreans. We are so obsessed with English education.

박준일:

I don’t understand why many of us prioritise English over hangul. Hangul has many strong points over English, yet it is treated like dirt in Korea.

조형철:

Ah… Today’s the birthday of this fantastic writing system, hangul and I’m going to work… ㅜㅜ

조유진:

I’m so proud of hangul! huh Let’s use proper hangul!

최인석:

I really appreciate for your work, Sejong the Great.

김오한:

Stupid politicians have been ruining hangul by distributing strangely mixed-up language. Citizen Centres? Hi Seoul?? WTF! English education for babies?? To raise the global status of a nation, it’s important to keep its own writing system and language nice and firm. And then we shall learn foreign languages.. Foreign languages are only for those people who work in global businesses… In short, we need to study the English language, not America. When real Koreans speak foreign languages, Korea’s global status will rise.

Japanese netizen comments from Yahoo.co.jp:

ken********(ken…)さん:

Seems idiotic.
If they’ve got the time and the money to hold that kind of event, then teach people the correct version of history, and return the money you borrowed from Japan, please.

日本を守ろう(nip…)さん:

‘World Orthography Olympics’

???
If it’s that amazing, why hasn’t it spread all over the world?

mkr32jp(mor…)さん:

The reality is that hangul is not used anywhere other than in the Korean peninsula. Strange race.

svm*a*_486*(svm…)さん:

In fact, it was the Japanese who spread hangul. When they realise this, they’ll go mad.

kiy*10*0g*(kiy…)さん:

Dirty script, hangul (lol). Makes me want to puke just looking at it.

man*ma*u*66(man…)さん:

This sophisticated thing didn’t start being used until Japanese rule in Korea.

tadao_okm(tad…)さん:

And they were even told two or three years ago that they couldn’t just use the term ‘olympics’ like that by the IOC…In May of this year, seven Korean prostitutes were arrested in Houston, Texas. Those bitches had lied and said they were Japanese. Koreans: A race hated throughout the world.

rbdskaw(kaw…)さん:

Poor things, wanking alone again after not getting the Nobel Prize [A Japanese doctor, Yamanaka, won the 2012 Nobel Prize for Medical Science]

lon*s*me_*ie*rot(lon…)さん:

If you look closely, it’s the same as expressions in the Roman alphabet!

no_more_korean_fake_boom(no_…)さん:

Just looking at those symbols makes me want to throw up.

日本の癌はマスコミ(kaz…)さん:

Absurd.
Is there any point saying one script is better than another?

matsu(nao…)さん:

First time I ever heard of such a competition.Scripts have always been closely connected with their respective languages, and as a rule I don’t thing they’re something you can assign value to…Well, it’s fine for those who are self-satisfied, but this doesn’t really concern Japanese people, so don’t transmit it in such detail in the Japanese version of Yahoo.

斜めから失礼します(hag…)さん:

The world was busy with the Nobel Prizes.

トンちゃん大好き(cer…)さん:

Blowing their own trumpets.
Singing their own praises.
And making stuff up?
Doesn’t bother me, I’ll never use hangul as long as I live.

目から怪光線(mac…)さん:

Let’s just recognise that it’s the newest script that can be used easily. But by the same measure, it doesn’t have the weight or significance of history at all. When compared with kanji invented in China they’re as different as heaven and earth.

ボビ(tak…)さん:

A Gold medal — for the least used script and the script people want to use least in the world!

hya**take49*1a(hya…)さん:

So what?
At any rate, it’s a gold medal that they bought…

nasuichi(mas…)さん:

The Korean tendency to fabricate things and fantasize about things– that’s world class/gold medal.

おやじ(dgw…)さん:

時音☆彡あいら(zsu…)さん said:’I really understand the reason why Japan, being jealous of the superiority of hangul,tried to ban its usage and banish it to oblivion.’ HAHAHAHAHAHA You fell for it! Ummm…it was the Japanese who spread hangul…..It was the Japanese who made schools in the Korean peninsula where the literacy rate was low, and it was the Japanese who raised the literacy rate…You, as a complete pro-Korea devotee have a gold medal for abnormalities in the frontal lobe of your brain.

白露(rur…)さん:

Muwahahahaha ^^
During the Yi dynasty hangul was ridiculed for being a script for little girls, and was barely used at all. Everyone used kanji. I guess Koreans knew that, huh? What’s more, the literacy rate was extremely low. Hangul spread under Japanese rule, because the Japanese built schools in every part of the Korean peninsula, as they did on the mainland, and they carried out education in hangul. But I guess that those unenlightened Koreans who fabricate historical fact don’t know anything about that.

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  • Sillian

    The sketchiness of the event has already been analyzed by Korean netizens especially from DC. The Christian group is obviously going overboard with a stupid idea. So what happens in the 3rd and 4th ‘Olympics’?

    And what’s up with the sudden Yahoo Japan comments? Make JapanSmash already. Yahoo Japan is one of the popular nests for nationalistic Japanese netizens and their Pavlovian denial of anything Korean is renowned but this time, I can’t make fun of them.

    • http://www.koreabang.com/ James Pearson

      Patience! It’s a japanTASTE of what’s to come.

      • Adrianojapan

        FINALLY!! I bet JapanSmash will get most access than all the other sites combined! 日本一!

        • Ruaraidh

          Hopefully it won’t just be because of an indefatigable horde of weeaboos.

        • http://twitter.com/a843754 A S

          I can hardly wait for the JapanTASTE website to come. If the above nationalistic Japanese comments are any indication, this new website will be filled with many juicy tidbits about their real opinions about SKorea and China.

    • Kate

      I don’t know you Silian, you and I obvisously disagree on certain subjects, but I do like you, at least you seem intelligent in your discussion and I respect that.

      • Sillian

        I enjoy your posts, whether I agree or not. I’m not here for a circle jerk ;p.

    • http://twitter.com/null2j Summer

      Yes, DC insiders know the contest is a hoax. But regarding the Evangelical influence of the contest, they seem to have no idea.

  • Smith

    I love how they misspell the word “Olympic” as “Olimpic” in their first homepage, possibly due to translation from English to Korean and back again. Superior script indeed!

  • Gabrielle

    You can tell it’s a sham when they ignorantly call it “English alphabet”.

    • Ruaraidh

      I’m a bit confused, they seem to be talking about scripts and orthographies as if they were the same thing. I agree that the English orthography isn’t very logical, but Hangul being able to make any sound…really?

      • http://www.facebook.com/bharvz Brandon Harville

        Yeah, that’s bollocks. First off, there is no way to make a proper Z. It’s also unable to make the CI sound in city, or the CE sound in century. Finally, Hangul usually can’t make double consonants. For example, the world “school” can’t be pronounced like it is in English because there is no way to make an sch sound. Instead, it has to follow the rule of consonant + vowel (the other is consonant + vowel + consonant, but there are spelling exceptions like words such as 닭, 앉, and,욺 for example) This, in turn, breaks up the word into two syllables, making it Seu-keul

        • Ruaraidh

          I don’t speak Korean but as far as I can tell the Gaelic nn (n̴̪ ), ll (ɫ̪) and dh (ʝ) are all missing from Hangul. Besides there are over a hundred letters in the international phonetic alphabet, and only something like 39 in Hangul.

          The consonant vowel paring would be bad enough for English, but a language like Georgian, which stacks consonants on top of each other, would have even more problems.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001491683210 David Lee

          “or the CE sound in century”
          wouldn’t 쎄 or 쎈 work?

          • http://www.facebook.com/bharvz Brandon Harville

            I am sorry, you’re right, the CE does work. Totally my mistake.

          • http://www.facebook.com/bharvz Brandon Harville

            But with that said, Hangul is a brilliant writing system for the Korean language. And if you ever get a chance to read up on Sejong, he was a brilliant man.

        • andrewfx51

          Coffee, pizza. Rollercoaster. Try these 한글 then get back to me.

      • MeiDaxia

        Modern hangul isn’t very logical, given that the vowels have devolved into almost the same sounds, like ㅐㅔ. My wife insists I just can’t hear the difference, yet missing my point that if we’re to pronounce them as proper diphthongs their sound wouldn’t be similar to the present sound at all… right?

  • Kate

    I think Hangul is very pretty, I like the circles. But superior? No. That’s pretty arrogant to say. One script is not superior to the other, they all serve the same function effectively.

    ‘‘The better alphabet a nation has, the more economic success it will have.’’

    How do they even come to this conclusion? Their butts?

    • Sillian

      I think you can measure ‘efficiency’ of a given script but only if it’s defined very specifically and narrowly. In that sense, you can probably say script A is superior to script B in efficiency but that comes with conditions. Efficiency isn’t everything about letter systems after all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/noah.altman Noah Altman

    Binary code has only two expressions, 1 and 0, and it is the dominant script of the world.

    • Ruaraidh

      Binary would be so much better if only we had a base8 numerical system instead of base10.

  • Commander-in-chief

    Numerous local languages should be respected as such as they contain singular characteristics of their own. This explains hy an attempt to forge a common global languange across national boundaries fizzled out.

    The claim of superiority of one language over others is subjective, depending upon the selection of criteria. Also lurking in such an arugment is the danger of forcing the supposedly excellent to others, losing sight of cultural diversity.

    The true meaning of inventing the Korean language should be ound in the fact that Koreans can express their thoughts and ideas and emotions in a freewheeling way by virtue of the novel invention.

    In commemoration of the Hangeul Day, we’d better find a way to make the local language more accessible to those who want to learn it but feel fruatrated with the lack of any substantial studying materials and teaching institutes, which would be increasingly urgent in consideration of growing popularity of the Korean pop culture.

    • Commander-in-chief

      Plus, I am wondering how the Korean language came to reign over others in the contest.

      It is often said that learning a language amounts to learning social conventions of a language. Although some might say theorectic evaluations among langauges are possible, I want to question such a appraisal by saying using a language in the daily lives in different cultural settings, which would of course affect the language usage, would be a dramatic departure from theorectical analysis in an academic ivory towet.

    • Sillian

      I gotta point out that they are talking about letters but not languages. Big difference. It is no secret that Hangeul has a unique place In linguistic history but that’s more about the fact that one ruler unprecedentedly decided to create a whole new letter system that perfectly fits the local language for the common people.

      • Commander-in-chief

        Comte to think of it, I heard Korean letters retains distinctiveness and are acclaimed as well made among linguists.

        Such a reputation, as you pointed out, doesn’t mean the necesssity of dissemninating them around the globe–the illogical corollary that the above Catholic group saw as natural.

  • Mitch

    There is a huge difference between how koreans see themselves and what reality is, and imagining that Korean is the “greatest” alphabet is another example. I’ve heard Koreans called the hardest working people (if you consider sleeping at their desks and sitting in the office doing nothing so their boss sees them as hard working), fast paced (i guess if compared to an island in the Caribbean), “International” (if compared to their northern neighbor, etc… SO when i hear this story about their alphabet being the best, i sigh, laugh, chalk it up to Koreans inability to see the world outside of the context of Korea

    • Commander-in-chief

      You are right. Seeing themselves through a mirror showing only what they want to be recognized as can be evidence of ignorance or arrogance. This absurd perception emerges repeatedly when non-Americans watch the presidential elections during which the republican candidate often say in hubris that the US shoud lead the world and can make thw world a better place–remarks that I think is more self-centered than the arguement of the Hangeul’s excellence.

      • Mitch

        absolutely right. Americans do the same exact thing in that context, and it humors me when I see hear it, but they do it far more in political context which there is more validity in that statement. The US is a global leader in politics, whereas Korea is DEFINITELY not anything close to a cultural leader in the world. Their self-centered views surround their culture, whereas most American self-centered thoughts surround politics, which is A) much less offensive to outsiders and B) is for the most part true. You may disagree with the US being the definitive political leader in te world

        • Mitch

          …but at least theres an argument that can be made. And either way, you can’t excuse one country’s self-centered-ness by saying another country does it. One has nothing to do with the other.

          • Kate

            I 100% agree with your statements. And yes, the USA is a world super power and is involved.extensively in world politics and whether you like it or not the usa is a world shaping force….Korea is really only important to Koreans or people who have ties there, the rest of the world.doesnt give two flying.squirrels about them.

          • Sillian

            Just wanna point out that some people tend to use the phrase ‘the rest of the world’ when they really mean the west.

          • Kate

            And I just wanna point out I knew what I meant when I typed that and I meant the rest of the world, not just western countries.

          • Sillian

            Try this. ‘Asians don’t give two flying squirrels about Korea.’ Can you justify this statement? Maybe those squirrels you talk about are some special kind? I’m just suspecting such view is stemming from west-centric mindset.

          • Kate

            Can YOU prove that the world does indeed give two flying squirrels? Do you think South Africa, Sierra Leon, Ghana, Ukraine, Turkey, Quatar, etc gives two flying rodents about Korea? Korea exports electronics and cars, thats about it. 45 mil citizens, a tiny little country, and no political power in the world. WHY would other countries.care about them? The world cares about China and Japan certainly, they are in the top 10 world powers, but Korea? I suspect your defense of Korea stems from a strong sense of nationalism for Korea and if Im western centric, then you are just as bias and korea centric.

          • Sillian

            I’m telling it like it is but you refuse to check your own view. You conveniently bypassed the burden of proof on you. I repeat. Try justifying this statement. ‘Asians don’t give two flying rodents about Korea.’ If you can’t, you can simply admit your ‘rest of the world’ is some figure of speech instead of doing an uphill argument.

          • Kate

            Can you prove any of your statements? Can you prove that any other place cares about Korea? The burden of proof falls on you as much as it does me. You cant say “well I contradict your statements, so prove you are right because I dont think you are” while offering no proof yourself. And you arent telling it like it is, you ars telling me how YOU think it is. You are conveniently by passing burden of proof as much as I am. You start an argument with me by demanding I prove my opinion while not proving yours. Im not wrong as long.as you cant prove I am and vice verse.

            Nether of us can prove one is wrong over the other because this whole arguement is based on subjective opinion. I gave you my reasons why I think Korea is not considered important to other countries, they are tiny, small populace, are.non threatening, are not even in the top 10 world power lists which are based on certain criteria. If other asians care.about Korea, its only because of their.kpop, k dramas, but as a country they probably dont. Now how about you give me a list of why other places DO care about Korea since you are so adamently pro korea?

            Actually dont, because I have a headache I cant get rid of, looking at tbis screen is making it worse, and I feel like we are two retards arguing over personal opinion. Go ahead, say the last word, im going to take some ibprofen and nap.

          • chucky3176

            And can you prove that nobody cares about Korea? Put your words where your mouth is. Prove it.

          • christina

            dear chucky,

            the correct phrase is, “put your money where your mouth is”

          • http://twitter.com/a843754 A S

            Awwww…look at Christina the grammar Nazi. You don’t even capitalize the “c” in Christina, dear, if you really want to be correct.

          • chucky3176

            If Japan doesn’t care about Korea, why is there a territorial issue? Why are they boycotting Korea? Why all the hoopla in Japan over Korea? Go have a look at their media, there doesn’t go a moment or day, without some reference to how evil Korea is being towards Japan. If nobody cares about Korea, why are there American troops in S.Korea to protect against North Korea? Why is Obama constantly mentioning Korea in his speeches? Why is he strengthening American military presence in Korea? After all, nobody cares, Korea is not important, who cares if some Koreans that nobody cares, die? right? Who cares about what happens in North Korea? Right?

            What factors do you think that some countries are worth being cared about? Does anybody care about Belgium? How about Canada, or Australia, or Netherlands, or Spain? Does anybody care other then the people in those countries? Are they worthy of your inclusion of countries that you think is valuable? What criteria do you use? They are important because they are western countries?

            Please come out of your America/Western centered shell protected by Dave’s ESL type of mentality. It looks ugly and bigoted.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Choi-Chul-soo/100003339282181 Choi Chul-soo

            You really need a hobby. Spend some time with your husband or something.

          • Snazzy_Brett

            Who are you? Do you have anything to add to the topic, or are you just out to be a dick?

          • http://twitter.com/a843754 A S

            nm

          • Snazzy_Brett

            “Who are you?”
            Look at my posting history to find out who I am. I think I’ve earned the privelage to call out an arbitrary post to be trolling.

            “Do you have anything to add…?”
            If I had anything to add to the discussion on Hangeul I would have when the article was posted. I said my share in the previous Hangeul article. Bet you thought that was giving me a piece of my own medicine, copying and pasting my words back at me. Good one!

          • Sillian

            Kate, did you delete your account or something? Hope your headache has gone. Don’t take this too personally. I made short replies because I was on my mobile phone. Let me elaborate what I’m trying to say better. There are some trite expressions or ideas I often hear from some Western expats that can be easily challenged if you think a little differently. You think I’m ‘adamantly pro-Korean’? I’m certainly not anti-Korean and I do care about Korea. Both delusional praise and arrogant belittlement of Korea irritate me. I see the latter case much more frequently here. I know you are a nice person. Some of your posts just happen to have some remarks that I feel like responding to. I like that you spend some time to reply back, too, although it may not be the case any more.

            What you basically said is that nobody cares about Korea. Upon my question, you reaffirmed that you literally mean it although that makes millions of non-Korean Asians ‘nobodies’, which can be taken as an arrogant remark as if Asians don’t matter. Asia is vast. Do you know that now Korea annually has ten million foreign visitors? Most of them are from Asia. It seems you are aware of the Korean pop cultural influence in Asia. You can readily find hundreds of articles from various international media. Although you brushed it off for your argument, you can also say that it is more relatable on a personal level than political or military power. Korea can even take advantage of the fact that Korea doesn’t come off as threatening or imperialistic. Maybe you and I interpret what ‘giving two rats about’ means fundamentally differently.

            South Korea is usually classified as Middle Power. Korea looks small relative to the neighbors.

            http://europeangeostrategy.ideasoneurope.eu/2011/12/29/worlds-fifteen-most-powerful-countries-in-2012/

        • Commander-in-chief

          American exceptionalism, an idea of the US being mandated to lead the world, is remarkable as it excel in portraying its invasion of other countries from purely its national interests as acts for global peace and welfare. The US radiates its overbearing confidence exceptionally in particular when it invaded Iraq without evidence of WMD that it argud Iraq had.

          After all, you are right. The US is a dominating force on the global stage by eliminating their perceived enemies contrary to its yearned for image of beacon of freedom.

          • Mitch

            ok commander, way to stay on topic. this isnt Americabang. this thread is in regards to korea declaring their writing system dominant, which i originally said relates to koreans own self-centered nature. Never did I say that any other country was immune from that same fact. But, just like a real korean, you ignore any and all facts and just go on some kind of weird tear about Iraq. lol like invading iraq and hangul being declared the dominant writing system have something to do with one another. When the U.S. allows south korea to exist by wasting 50 years of military personnel and billions of dollars in spending, i think the U.S. is owed at least a bit of gratitude, because if the U.S. had not been been so “overbearing with confidence” and didn’t “invade other countries”, you’d be ONLY speaking your hangul in a DPRK detention center. And I couldn’t imagine a world without ROK. I mean, what would the world have without copies of US and Japanese electronics and European cars? Where would all those filipinos be without Korean whoremongers there to impregnate them?

            Now that your stupidity was fought with by my FAR SUPERIOR stupidity, the main point is that Korea isn’t the worst country in the world. And its obviously a major player in Asia. But it’s desire to be a cultural leader when it’s 1/20 the size of one of it’s neighbors and 1/5th the size of it’s other neighbor is quite sad. Lets think about where Korea has cultural influence(where people in one culture take on elements of another culture, just to be clear. not just watching their movies ): In the west? Not at all. In the Middle East/Russia? Not at all. In Africa? Not at all. Australia? Nope. India? Hell no. Latin America? LOL! Southeast Asia? SOME. However, western influence is a factor of 100 higher. China? Tiny, again, Western Influence is far higher. Japan? minute, western influence is much higher. So your point that Korea is relevant in Asia is true, but the degree to which it is true is not significant. It is FAR more significant economically. Economically speaking Korea has clear influence across the globe, without question. However, culturally speaking? PLEASE! Korea is slowly Westernizing, where as I don’t exactly see kimchi being served with every meal in Spain, the US, or France. Korea is a really nice country, and it’s too bad Koreans cant just relax and let people appreciate it without getting insecure and forcing it down people’s throats. and just like Kate, i’m done arguing about this.

          • Commander-in-chief

            First of all, a brief look at my comments allows you to notice I have never argued the Hangeul’s excellence over others.     Second, many Amercians are very proud of their vast influences across the world, but prone to overlook America’s dark side: secret missions conducted on the Latin America and other regions during the Cold War suffice to humble America’s confidence.  Their principal goal was to make connections with dictators who favor the US, and try to eliminate them if they refuse to be the puppet regime or are replaced by popluar uprising with anti-American regimes.  As you may know, Osama bin laden, architect of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the mainland US was fostered by the US as a fighter against the Soviet Union.  In a sense, the attacks are attributable partly to the flawed US foerign policy.  If you insist the US is a enormous force in the world, I accept it reluctantly, but if you call the US benevolent, I flatly deny it. That is my point.   Third, as a South Korean, I pay respect to many multinational soldiers who fell druing the Korean War for defending South Korea, which they might have never know a bit of before going to war.  When it comes to the United States, I have a different idea. America’s decision to fight back the communist invasion came purely from its national interest: if the korean peninsula falls into the communist hands, Washington would find itself very hard to maintain its power in Aisa. Plus, the Korean war’s cause, as many American scholars acknowledge, came partially from Washington’s promulgation to exclude the Korean peninsula from its Asian defence line, which the communist force took as the abandonment of Washington’s commitment to South Korea.  This is why I am grateful of sacrificed soldiers but not of the US.   Finally, but the most important, just as you were sensitive at what I attempted to generalize the US as a global power reigning over the weaker ones, your generalized comments also can be inflammatory for others.

    • Kate

      Well you know Korea has some of.the longest working.hours in the world and one of the lowest productivity rate, so there is merit to what you say. I know when I worked there I could get work done in 2 hrs that would take my Korean managers 2 weeks, they would literally be at work from 8 am to 9 pm and.you would think a hell of a lot of work would.get done but they rarely had anything done, incredibly behind.on everything, and none of the expats could understand or figure out how they werent getting necessary things.done when they were working insane hours. But they always looked busy bit rarely an actual product came from it.

      • MeiDaxia

        Yeah, hardest working is misleading unless out in proper context. My Korean history teacher said it more like “Koreans Saturday in their offices sometimes 24 hours a day, but still don’t manages the productivity of the typical American office worker. ” the guy was Korean, and he went on to make a point about how culture has affected this, i.e. being there to score points with your boss for just being there, not for the actually work you do.

      • chucky3176

        You and your ESL friends haven’t a clue because that’s all the experience you have ever had, working in a fairly easy job, teaching English. I’ll give you your productivity sucks in Korea, maybe for some of the Korean office workers. But try going out and working in small factories, in ship yards, delivering furnitures, stocking shelves, running a pojang macha or ddobokki stand, etc etc that you guys have never even dreamed of stooping down to. I guarantee you, you won’t last a day without complaining about poor pay and back breaking work, yet these are the jobs that Korea was built upon.

        PS: I don’t consider productivity GNP figures very accurate. They depend too much on per capita income which in turn gets misleading due to Korea’s erratic currency values going up and down drastically all the time.

        • holdingrabbits

          Chucky, no one is saying that our jobs are especially hard. You are right that our jobs are very easy compared to blue collar factory workers. The difference between us and most of those people is that we went to college, can speak fluent English, there is a demand for the English, and we have left our friends and family on the other side of the world. I did manual labor jobs while I was working through college and I agree with you, however, that’s not the issue. I think the complaint they’re making is that our time and the time of our co-workers is poorly managed. For instance, I only need to be at work for 4 hours to do my job, but I’m there for eight and a half. I’m lucky and I know it, but it’s hard to accept that people are staying late because they decided to take a 2 hour tea break to chat with their friends or surf g-market. My friends in companies told me that they were finished with their work by 2pm but they had to stay until 8, pretending to work, to impress the boss. That’s silly no matter what culture you’re from.

          But I digress…all hail Hangeul!

          • chucky3176

            Having worked at both Western and Korean companies before, I know what you’re talking about. But time wasting habits like taking 8 hours for jobs that should take 2 hours, isn’t exclusive to Korean companies. In the past, I worked in Western companies where employees slacked off during the day, pretending to work, but instead surfing the web, chatting online, and calling in sick when they weren’t really, etc etc. The problem was so bad, the management started putting tracking programs on employee computers. They found people were surfing porn sites during work hours. They found people chatting 8 hours a day (bad mouthing the boss!). They found people emailing confidential information back and forth between their own friends. The management let couple of people go, and reprimanded several others. They also had to put a internet nanny router which filters internet traffic which reported on people’s web habits and blocking just about every sites that hadn’t to do with business. I really don’t see the advantage in Western work places, since people are people – they’ll take advantage of the situation if they are allowed – no matter if they’re Korean or not.
            But where I do see in the difference is in the working culture. Westerners don’t go out after work to drink, but Koreans do. Koreans also work overtime unpaid – they are expected to. Korean workers also can’t finish work and leave, until their bosses leave first. They end up pretending to work, while watching the clock. So in that regard, yes, Westerners have it right and it shows up in their productivity numbers. Koreans on the other hand, have to go through all these extracurricular non paid activities that are unproductive. I don’t think working habits in Western companies have anything to write home about, but I do think Korea should adopt Western style working culture, and let employees go home to enjoy their family lives, after the work days are over. Work stress is what is killing the Korean family, and Koreans should learn from the West, the balance between work and family.

          • chucky3176

            One thing I learned is that time wasting at work, is universal, and it isn’t just exclusive to Korean work places. People are people, and if they are allowed to get away, they aren’t going to be productive 8 hours full out, 250+ working days. I’m talking about Western companies. I would wager that for most people at their jobs, at least half the work could be accomplished within 2 to 4 hours, the rest are time wasting on internet, chatting beside water coolers, and phoning for personal use, pretending to work and being busy etc etc.

          • http://www.koreabang.com/ James Pearson

            “Westerners don’t go out after work to drink, but Koreans do”

            One day Chucky, provided it’s one of those days when you’re not being inexplicably rude to everyone, I’ll take you out for an after-work pint in London and you’ll see just how outrageous that statement was.

          • http://twitter.com/null2j Summer

            @James_koreaBANG:disqus Yeah that statement sounds absurd. But I’m wondering, do Westerners have corporate 회식 culture like Koreans? It’s like after-work drinks on the outside, but de facto working on the inside.

        • Kate

          Dear Chucky,

          I told you I wasn’t going to reply to you anymore due to you being rude and having no manners. Sillian disagrees with me often, but she/he isn’t rude like you. So I don’t mind replying to him/her. You, however, are incredibly rude and I don’t like how you treat others on this board, including myself. Case in point: assuming I have no clue about hard work and have worked only easy jobs in my life. I’m sorry, do you my biography? Because you sure do like to assume so much about my personal life.

          Teaching is by no means easy. I suppose if you are an unqualified, lazy, shit teacher who doesn’t do their job and has no business teaching, then yes it is (and yes, I do know many ESL teachers in Korea are just like that). I, however, am a trained, licensed teacher. I worked my ass off for 4 years in college to get my degree and license and passed a multitude of state exams. Real teachers are some of the hardest working, least appreciated people I know. Have YOU ever taught 25 children from an array of cultures, families, with different ability levels and needs? Have YOU ever made lesson plans that meet rigid state standards? Have YOU ever had to teach children who come to school from horrible situations and try to get them to learn something, while their daddy is prison for stabbing their mother to death? Have YOU ever had to prepare children for high stakes testing and if your kids don’t do well, you don’t have a job? Real teachers work from sunrise to sun down and have so much to deal with. There is a reason the turn over rate for new teachers is 50% within 4 years, the job is really hard and emotionally can be so incredibly draining. I have taught many, many children from very horrible, sad home lives and as a teacher, you can’t do anything for them outside of the classroom and it gets to you eventually. I taught a student once, his parents had strapped him to a bed as an infant and tried to starve him to death, he would hold what little food they gave him in his cheeks for as long as possible so he would have something. I’ve taught students who were molested and raped by their fathers and uncles, I’ve taught children who would come to school covered in dirt and bugs and urine, students who, if I gave them a bad grade, the next day they would come covered in bruises because their parents beat them. Anyone that says “teaching is easy” has never been a teacher and is completely ignorant.

          And yes, I taught in the USA before I ever taught in Korea and I DO know what the hell I’m talking about when it comes to teaching. TYVM.

          As far as those “back breaking” jobs, well Chucky, yeah I have worked those kinds of jobs and you know what I did? I went to college so I wouldn’t have to anymore. I worked plenty of hard manual labor jobs, I’ve worked factory jobs, standing all day in a 100 degree factory, I’ve worked food service jobs, making food, serving, cleaning up after others just like those people at ddobokki stands. And I lasted a hell of a longer then a day Chucky. I worked those jobs since I was 16 until I graduated from college.

          You just assume “those westeners” are snobs, that we don’t know what “real hard jobs” are, that we think we “are too good”, when in fact you really don’t know anything about them or me. Have you even been to the USA? Do you even have westener friends in Korea? Chucky, if you ever came to the US, you would see that the people are really nice, decent, hard working people. Really we are. If you came to my town in the US, I would cook you a nice dinner and show you around.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001235329632 Luiz Rodrigo Souza

    This is the most funny thing I’ve heard in times. Hangeul is great? YES, but only for representing the korean language. It would be terrible for representing most ocidental languages, due to its inabillity to represent in a good way sequences of consonants, vowels, and letters for many sounds. Also, the concept of “syllable” in korean is simply too much restrictive. In the end, it would not fit for a “global” writing system unless it suffered A LOT of adaptations, that is, if it changed so much that it would not be hangeul anymore.

    • Kate

      Agreed. I think it looks pretty but I dont like the way it sounds. Korean to me, especially when women speak it, comes across as a very annoying guttery, whiney language (my husband sometimes does the korean whine, annoys me so.fast). I know when my father in law speaks, it sometimes sounds like he is hacking a loogey from.his throat.

      • Sillian

        I think such impression reflects the speaker’s character than anything else. The standard Korean language itself is monotonous and doesn’t have many harsh sounds. Older men tend to use harsh throat sounds and younger girls tend to sound ‘whiney’.

      • chucky3176

        lol… why is “Kate”, showing up as “Guest”? What happened to your avatar?

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephenjbeckett Stephen Beckett

    It’s this kind of idiotic hubris that makes me glad that the world gives Korea so little attention…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001491683210 David Lee

    Korean Christians… /eyeroll
    Completely embarrassing. Have they no shame?

  • dcayman

    three words define Korea… “Massive inferiority complex”
    remember that and you’ll understand everything that goes on there

  • Ruaraidh

    Two ‘Alphabet Olympics’ within three years of each other! How fast do they think the world’s writing systems are changing?

    Just imagine it; ‘Over the last three years some old power players from the dark ages have really overhauled themselves. Many commentators suspect this Alphabet Olympics will be dominated by a thrilling competition between Ogham and Staveless Futhark for the gold!’

    Or is it just so that they can go through the motions again, despite nothing having changed since last time, culminating in the Hangul fanatics giving themselves a big congratulatory pat on the back.

    Before anyone misunderstands me, Hangul is a cool system, but there is a difference between an enthusiast and a fanatic.

    • http://twitter.com/null2j Summer

      I suspect they held the second Olympics to raise some money for their missionary works. They’ve been visiting Burma for short-term mission trips.

  • andrewfx51

    “We have to thank Sejong the great for working hard to let us use such a nice writing system.”
    …Which wasn’t commonly used until the 20th century.
    “Hangul can express every sound you can imagine. I’m not surprised.”
    Yes, like th, f, circumflex consonants. Or r/l.

    All this is a bit like America patting itself on the back if they won the World Series

  • Bunny Hiccups

    I think the alphabet does look great. Better than the western script (yawn). Korean language also sounds very musical to me. Good stuff.
    Speaking of writing… I am wondering if my new romance novel should have a Korean love interest (male) instead of a western one. Still trying to decide.

  • vincent

    lol taking pride in anything
    nationalistic masturbation at its finest

  • Pat

    It seems Koreans are pretty delusional

    • http://twitter.com/a843754 A S

      Are you generalizing the ENTIRE population, if so, I think you may be the one who’s delusional, dear.

  • RegisterToPost

    Remember when there was this huge reaction over the Cia-Cia in Indonesia adopting Hangul for their language? Even they abandoned it. I wonder why?

  • ki95992259se

    hmm interesting comments, from the netizens

  • Paul M

    When it said “Alphabet Olympics” I thought there would be contests such as speed writing (with points given for clarity and legibility) and endurance writing. I’m quite sad that Cyrillic isn’t represented as I think it is just as logical as Hangul and, in my opinion, more beautiful

    • Sillian

      Hahah, THAT sort of Olympics would’ve been brilliant.

  • Buzzbee

    When I told my family I was thinking of going to Korea, everyone had to Google it to find it on the Map. The only reference most of my friends had was M*A*S*H and North Korea being insane. This includes my Aunt who is a travel agent in the U.K. and my uncles who have been Engineers in the UAE for the last 25 years (in short well traveled, educated and cultured people).

    Korea is simply not that important to make the news abroad. Look at BBC world news, China and India gets a section each but not Korea. Occasionally an article will appear when something big happens like that big chemical spill in Gumi last week and this week they talk about how the border soldiers covered up their mistake. Also the BBC offer stories in Hindi, Indonesian, pashto, Urdu, Chinese and Vietnamese but not in Korean. If the Hangul script is so popular and highly valued internationally, why are all these other languages and not Korean articles available? Also I just looked at Fox news, Huffington post and CNN and none are carrying Korean stories at the moment except for the border guard incident.
    If Korea was more important and valued around the world, like some people here seems to think, these news papers would have more stories except for this one embarrassing one.

    • Sillian

      Your examples are strange. Let me explain why. First, this seems like the full list of the languages the BBC website can be read in.

      Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Persian, Azeri, Bangla, Burmese, French, Hausa, Hindi, Indonesian, Kirundi, Kyrgyz, Nepali, Pashto, Portuguese, Russian, Sinhala, Somali, Swahili, Tamil, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Uzbek and Vietnamese.

      I don’t know exactly what criteria they used to choose those service languages but are you implying that indicates Kirundi as a language is more ‘popular and highly valued’ (as you put it) than, say, Japanese which is not in the list? Isn’t it more logical to think the selection is related to the reader base? For serious interest in the linguistic value of Hangeul, you can stop playing silly games like this but try reading stuff like ‘King Sejong the Great’ chapter in Margaret Thomas’ ‘Fifty Key Thinkers on Language and Linguistics’.

      ‘Country A is simply not that important to make the news abroad (constantly).’

      How many out of 200 countries in the world would NOT belong to that Country A category? Does that make them all irrelevant in every way? Nobody is saying Korea is globally and constantly relevant to average people all over the world. I’d say the countries that can truly meet that narrow criteria are few and far between.

      You mentioned that your family (from the UK?) do not know much about Korea. Not surprised. I can say exactly the same thing about many Asians not knowing much about some Western countries that some people here may put on a pedestal. It’s like they have heard about the country names and have a few superficial images but that’s about it. It is simply because those countries have no relevancy in their everyday life. Should I cite the mantra that they are irrelevant?

      • chucky3176

        LOL.. BBC ignores Korea… then how come BBC has assigned a reporter named Cindy Williams to its Seoul office to reporting from Korea, on Korea? Look, I get that people are annoyed by that Christian group’s attempts at making Hangeul look better than it is. Lord knows how many Koreans are also annoyed with Korean Christians and their stupidity and their double standards. Frankly they should be wiped out from Korea, because they’re despicable and embarrassing. But this constant attempts at cutting down the country to nothing is also annoying.

    • chucky3176

      I think there’s a difference with ignorance. If you’re proud of British people’s ignorance, then so be it. By the way, I disagree with you completely that Korea is totally ignored in the British media. If I go to BBC, Financial Times, Economist, and Americans ones like CNN, FOX, New York Times, etc, and type in their search boxes, “Korea”, I can get a slew of articles on Korea’s current affairs, pop culture, and the economy on a daily basis. Granted, S.Korea is not a high profile country in the west, as in China and Japan, but it’s really not true that nobody cares. I think that’s how you feel, but that doesn’t mean it’s really the way it is.

  • chucky3176

    d

  • http://mykafkaesquelife.blogspot.com/ My Kafkaesque Life

    I’m gona propose hangul to the Taiwanese minister of Culture, because this group convinced me. We’ll see what happens.

  • dk2020

    Let Koreans be proud of hangul .. no one really cares ..

  • pragathi

    Telugu is the wonderful technical language that need almost all parts of mouth to be postured in a particular way to get the exact phonetics of what it need to be.Telugu is the language that has capability to transcript within itself any pronunciation that can be reproduced accurately. I am Sure no other language has such capability. Another wonder is using ONLY N… yes the letter n we can create a sentance/ poem ending different vowels. For eg.. Nenu ninnannaanaa, nee naannanannaanaa, ninnaanani neenaannanannaani nenannaanaa… Has a clear meaning. You contact any telugu speaking person who can tell u the meaning…

    vikatakavi (Reverse it, in telugu.. surprisingly same. just like the word’ malayalam’.
    Even there is a poem that if reversed gives same sentence.
    If you read a telugu poem, it creates glorious musical notes. It has vowels that look like musical instruments. Some musical forms are telugu and cant substitute by any other language.
    desapragathi@gmail.com

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