October 9 – Korean Alphabet Day

The Korean Alphabet Day, known as Hangeul Day (한글날) in South Korea, and Chosŏn’gŭl Day in North Korea, is a national Korean commemorative day marking the invention and the proclamation of Hangul (한글; 조선글), the alphabet of the Korean language, by the 15th-century Korean monarch Sejong the Great. It is observed on October 9 in South Korea and on January 15 in North Korea.

The Hanguel alphabet is very different than any of the European alphabets, but it is reportedly much easier to learn than Chinese or Japanese because there are only 24 letters. It was created by the much-loved King Sejong the Great in the 15th century. Prior to this Koreans used Hanja, based on elements of the Chinese alphabet along with native phonetic writing systems. However, because of the large number of characters needed to be learned, the lower classes, who often did not receive education, had difficulty learning to write. To promote literacy, King Sejong published Hunmin Jeongeum (훈민정음; 訓民正音), the document introducing the newly created alphabet, in 1446.

In 1926, the Korean Language Society, whose goal was to preserve the Korean language during a time of rapid forced Japanization, began a yearly celebration of the anniversary of the declaration of hangeul. A discovery in 1940 revealed that the Hunmin Jeongeum was announced during the first ten days (sangsun; 상순; 上旬) of the ninth month. The tenth day of the ninth month of the 1446 lunar calendar was equivalent to October 9 of that same year’s Julian calendar. The South Korean government, established in 1945, declared October 9 to be Hangeul Day, a yearly legal holiday which excused government employees from work.

In 2009, in celebration of the 563rd anniversary of the invention of the Korean alphabet by King Sejong, the 6.2-meter high, 20-ton bronze statue of King Sejong the Great of Joseon at Gwanghwamun Plaza in Seoul, was unveiled to the public.

Statue of King Sejong on Gwanghwamun Plaza

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