Hangeul: Korean Alphabets and Characters


1. 한글이란(What is Hangeul)?

한글(Hangeul) is the alphabet used with the Korean language.

It was invented by Sejong the Great, the 4th King of the Joseon Dynasty in 1443 and it is still used widely. When Hangul was spread out, King Sejong published Hunminjeongeum Haeryebon(훈민정음 해례본) which was chosen as the Memory of the World by UNESCO in 1997. In this book, the principle of the invention of Hangul and information on its usage were recorded in detail.

The book Hunminjeongeum Haeryebon states the 2 principles of Hangul. The first one is that the consonants of Hangeul are patterned on vocal organs. The second one is that the vowels of Hangeul are based on Cheonjiin(천지인). Cheonjiin refers to the three elements of philosophy which are heaven(천), earth(지) and human(인). Due to this invention principle, Hangeul gained the international reputation of its scientific method.

2. 모음(Vowels)

Vowels are letters like A, E, O and so on

There are 21 letters for vowels in Hangul.

– 10 simple ones, ㅏㅓㅣㅑㅕ and ㅗㅜㅡㅛㅠ.

– 11 more complicated combinations: ㅐㅒㅔㅖ and ㅘㅙㅚㅝㅞㅟㅢ.

3. 자음(Consonants)

Consonants are letters like B, G, L, M, N, S and so on.

– There are 14 simple consonants: ㄱㄴㄷㄹㅁㅂㅅㅇㅈㅊㅋㅌㅍㅎ

– They can be written two next to each other: ㄲ ㄸ ㅃ ㅆ ㅉ

4. 받침(Final consonants)

The 받침 is the final consonant (or consonant cluster) at the end of a Korean syllable. The 받침 is written in the bottom/final position. Conjugation rules will often depend on if there is a 받침 or not. The consonant in the 받침 position is said to be in the “final position.”

ㄱ/ㅋ/ㄲ [ㄱ]
ㄷ/ㅅ/ㅆ/ㅈ/ㅊ/ㅌ/ㅍ/ㅎ [ㄷ]

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