Korean Alphabet Day: Worthy of a Public Holiday?

King Sejong, Inventor of the Korean Script

A few years ago, the South Korean government trimmed down on holiday time by removing several memorial days from the official list of public holidays including Arbor Day, Constitution Day and Hangul Day (aka Hangul Proclamation Day or Korean Alphabet Day).

Furthermore, even on the remaining few holidays such as the recently celebrated International Workers’ Day, employers still tend to force their slightly less celebrated employees to come back to the office work, rendering such red days pretty black in the eyes of some. Meanwhile, one of the many commercial surfboards to have benefitted from the high tide of the Korean Wave has been much-loved K-Drama A Deep Rooted Tree starring old time favourite actor Han Suk-kyu as King Sejong an equally old time favourite king, fondly remembered for inventing Hangul, the easy-to-master Korean writing system (so easy to master in fact that the 20th Century literay snobs would refer to it as ‘Ach’imgul’ [아침글] meaning ‘a script you can learn in one morning’). And you really can master it in a morning –– any English speaker who has dabbled with anything more squiggly than the roman alphabet will agree that Hangul is a beautifully accessible writing system.

Therefore, a combination of a rekindled love for King Sizzle’s ingenuity, a serious need of a holiday and rising anti-religious sentiment against the gaedok has kick-started a debate about having a few more days off, starting with Hangul Proclamation day that celebrates the creation of the Korean alphabet.

Nancy Lang posing in front of a statue of King Sejong the Great

From Yonhap News:

Google's logo for Hangul Day

83.6% of Korean people surveyed agree that Hangul Proclamation Day should become a public holiday

83.6% of the population agreed with the idea of making the Hangul Proclamation Day [October 9th, the day celebrating the invention of Hangul, the Korean letters] a public holiday.

On the 14th of May the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism carried out a public survey in which 83.6% of the public replied that they agree that Hangul Proclamation Day should be made a public holiday. This value is higher than previous survey results, increasing by 14.8% compared to 68.8% in agreement in 2009 and by 7.3% compared to 76.3% in agreement in 2011.

57.5% of the public also thought that the Hangul Day should be preferentially designated a public holiday before any other national days or memorial days, such as Constitution Day (15.4% showed preference), Arbor Day (12.2%) and Armed Forces Day (8.1%).

However, the number of people who know the date of the Hangul Proclamation Day has fallen gradually. In this year’s survey, 64% knew when it is, decreased by 24.1% compared to 88.1% in 2009.

The survey was a telephone survey targeted at 1000+ people aged 19 or above, from the 13th to 15th of April, in celebration of 615th birthday of King Sejong [the great king who initiated and completed the study into developing Korean letters, with scholars at the Hall of Worthies], amidst increasing interests in Korean language and learning of it at overseas Sejong Schools. The maximum margin of allowable error of the results is plus or minus 3.1% from the 95% confidence level.

Comments from Daum:


Absolutely agree.


May foreign linguists from all over the world praise the superiority of Hangul [Korean letters] very highly… In no other country do they use a language that was artificially, systematically and scientifically developed. While other languages may be scientific, King Sejong the Great is the only person who (or was recorded to have) created a language artificially. He invented a scientific language in early 15th Century, taking into consideration the separation of syllables and consonants, construction of new letters and juxtaposing of consonants, among others. Hangul seems to be undervalued in Korea.. We should not only celebrate it but also let the world know of its excellence by holding a festival on the Hangul Proclamation Day. I hope Hangul is disseminated to countries without a language so that many more people would use it!


Let’s vote ‘up’ for this article!! People who voted against should watch the drama series “A Deep-rooted Tree”………. While we take for granted something that we have, it is often the case that we look back at how precious it is only when we lose it and become unable to use it any more. This drama series did a really good job at giving us a meaningful and persuasive message that someone had to risk their life for something that we now take for granted and use without thinking. This is probably why we look forward to Wednesdays and Thursdays [when the drama series is aired] so much, isn’t it? [To realise] how wonderful Hangul, which I use, is… makes me feel wonderful.


We are not just agreeing so that we can have more days off. Hangul Day should seriously be a public holiday, even if Children’s Day [May 5th, currently a public holiday celebrating the importance and rights of children] has to become a business day instead.


Squad of public holidays – IN: Hangul Proclamation Day, Parents’ Day [May 8th, currently not a public holiday and a fixed day thanking one’s parents, a little like a combination of Mother’s day and Father’s day in some countries] OUT: Buddha’s birthday, Jesus’ birthday


Honestly speaking, Hangul Proclamation Day is much more meaningful than Christmas or Buddha’s birthday. What’s with making public holidays of someone else’s birthday, when it is meaningless for us…


Let the religious crowd do the religious events on their own and include more days as national holidays ㅡㅡ This is nothing but putting the cart in front of the horse


Hangul – a beautiful culture of ours that is used by all the Korean people and recognised by the world… Religion – something that only a part of the population believes in, and a suspicious organisation that has been corrupted and commercialised… They pay respects every weekend for Buddhism and Christianity so why don’t we give fewer holidays for them, and instead make the Hangul Day or Parents’ Day public holidays… I think it’s right to do that because only some people have a religious belief but Hangul and parents are common to all of us and we all must be grateful for them.


Who was the dick that excluded the Hangul Day from public holidays?? So pathetic


Honestly it seems right to spend Hangul Day meaningfully, let alone other days, not just being happy about having one more public day off.. People these days often get final consonants and grammar wrong, including myself –– I sometimes get confused and get it wrong too. I hope we look back on our knowledge of Hangul while celebrating the day…


Why do we have a day off on Christmas Day when Jesus was born, but not on Hangul Day which is a national memorial day? The priority doesn’t seem right.. And that’s not because I’m single!


I hope we can think of Hangul’s excellence, which is already internationally recognised!!^^I agree!!!! huh huh


ke ke ke ke oh dear if you really love Hangul please don’t mention Hangul Day while you thoughtlessly keep on using your crappy English. It’s difficult to see Hangul in lyrics, names of singers and things in the street but you use some shitty words from nowhere – pathetic how you ramble on about excellence of Hangul and King Sejong the Great. I ask you to please use Hangul correctly and shake off that disgusting hypocrisy;;


I feel so sorry to King Sejong the Great for the fact that you have to do the TOEIC rather than a [test of] Korean in order to make a living in this country.


Right….. I really don’t see what sacrifice Jesus Christ and Buddha have made to Korea;;;; When we don’t even remember the day that the national language was made;;;;


Did anyone notice the rate of homes with raised flags on March 1st? [Raising of flags outside one’s house is an act of remembrance on memorial days like March 1st, the day of the anti-Japanese movement during the Japanese colonial period] There were loads of apartment buildings with no Korean flags at all.. It’s creepy how some people would do that just to have a day off, making excuses on the Hangul Day.


Hangul is good enough to be a universal language.


It was great of King Sejong to make Hangul to serve as the national language, but it was Dr Sikyeong Ju who studied and developed it further, making it easier and more convenient for us to use.. I hope we don’t forget him as well……. I wonder how many people actually know about Dr Ju… And I also wonder how many people know how much he studied it and tried to let the public know Hangul…


UNESCO didn’t name the King Sejong Prize, given to the person with the greatest achievement in fighting illiteracy, for no reason. [Hangul is] a set of characters, scientific in the very principles of its making. If we were using Chinese characters instead of Hangul we wouldn’t have established the kind of development that we see now. Hangul is the language that has made the highest and most wonderful contribution to the development of our country.


To be frank, this situation isn’t even funny.. Is there anyone who thought about Hangul even once more when the Hangul Day used to be a public holiday? On the contrary, is there anyone who thinks there isn’t time to think about Hangul because the Day is not a public holiday? I’m all for more days off, but it’s real 병맛 [glossary for this?] to see those people who make up some great-sounding reasons to hypnotize themselves..


I think it would be appropriate to exclude Buddha’s birthday and Christmas Day from the public holidays, and instead include the Hangul Day and Constitution Day.

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