Lesson Transcript

Seol: 안녕하세요.
Iseul: 안녕하세요.
Keith: Keith here. Now, today we have a great, great culture class for you today. Today we’re talking about?
Seol: 한글날.

Lesson focus

Keith: And, for those of you that don’t know, 한글 is the writing system of Korea. And we’ve been hyping this up for a couple of weeks now, we’ve been doing a contest, we sent out a video on how to write 한글, and today it’s finally here. 한글날. Yay!
Iseul: Yay!
Keith: Seol, she’s not really excited. She’s faking it.
Seol: No, no, no. I’m excited.
Keith: So, what is today again?
Iseul: 한글날.
Keith: Here’s a thing. When it’s written and when it’s read by syllables, it’s 한글날. But what did you say again?
Iseul: 한글랄
Keith: Yeah. What’s up with that?
Seol: The consonant of ㄴ was affected by the last consonant of 글, ㄹ. So, it changes to a similar form ㄹ.
Keith: Right. So, it’s 한글날, but it changes to 한글랄. Well, if you try to say 한글날 really fast it just kind of naturally becomes 한글랄. So, 한글날. 한글날. 한글랄. It’s a little difficult, right? So it kind of just naturally changes to 한글랄. Okay. Let’s talk about 한글 a little bit. And this is going to be a little bit of history, but history can be fun, too. So, Iseul, who created 한글?
Seol: 새종대왕
Keith: Okay. What’s his name?
Iseul: 세종
Keith: And what’s 대왕 that comes after it?
Iseul: The Great King.
Keith: So, this guy is The Great King Sejong?
Iseul: Sejong, yes.
Keith: And Korea has a very long history, it’s maybe...
Iseul: Close to 5000 years old.
Keith: Yes. Close to five... Wow…
Iseul: Yeah.. We have one of the longest written histories among different civilizations.
Keith: So, five thou-... I thought it was maybe two or three...
Seol: No. It’s 5000 years.
Keith: Okay, wow, okay. Even I’m learning something new. 5000 years. Okay. So, we have a 5000 year history and we got kings, kings, kings and...
Seol: Queens.
Keith: Yeah, okay.
Seol: Yeah, we had two queens in our history.
Iseul: You mean two ruling queens.
Seol: Yes.
Keith: So, kings, kings, kings for 5000 years and two ruling queens.
Seol: Yes.
Keith: All right. So, we have a very long history. And the thing is, within our 5000 year history, there’s only two kings that have that title: The Great King. Everyone else is King and then their name, but 세종대왕 is the Great King. Let’s break down his name.
Iseul: 세종대왕
Keith: Okay. His name is?
Iseul: 세종
Keith: And, what’s after that?
Iseul: 대 which means “Great”.
Keith: Great. And last part?
ISeul: 왕 which means “King”.
Keith: Yes. So, it’s literally “세종 Great King”. So, in our history, there are only two kings with that title, “The Great King”. One of them we are not going to talk about today. What’s his name though?
Seol: 광개토대왕
Keith: Okay. And he did a lot of great things, obviously.
Seol: Yes, he did.
Keith: But, what the great thing that 세종 did was...
Iseul: He invented 한글.
Keith: And before that Korea was using Chinese characters.
Iseul: Yes. We’ve been borrowing the Chinese characters for many thousands of years until 세종대왕 created Korea’s writing system.
Keith: Yeah. So we were using Chinese characters, so it didn’t really represent Korean language exactly. That’s why he created 한글 so that it represented the Korean language a lot more closely. And, Seol, do you know anything about how he created 한글?
Seol: Well, I’m not sure, but there is a rumor that when he was in the toilet he saw the shape of the window and all of the sudden he had an epiphany, so he just took the system of the window and made 한글.
Keith: A lot of great people have epiphanies on the toilet.
Seol: Really?
Keith: I do. That’s why I came to the Korean class. I was like, “ got to do something.” Anyway… So that’s a rumor though. It’s kind of debated where he got it from, but a professor from Columbia, actually his theory is that he took it from a Mongolian writing system. And Mongolian and Korean are so similar in terms of language.
Seol: Right, right. The grammar system is really similar.
Keith: Yes. And this language family is called the Altai language family. So if we take the writing system from one and we bring it to another, it kind of works sometimes. And because we’re part of the same language family, Korea and Mongolia, we’re basically the same people, right?
Seol: Yes.
Iseul: We all have the Mongolian birthmark when we are born.
Keith: Can you go into a little more detail on that?
Iseul: Well, Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Mongolians, Native Americans, we are all born with a birthmark on our butt. A greenish blue mark, which is called the Mongolian birthmark.
Seol: But, it disappears, right?
Iseul: It disappears when we are about three, but it is a sign showing our ancient ancestors come from the same bloodline.
Keith: Well, I don’t know how true that is, but Koreans all do have this Mongolian birthmark. That’s the name of it, and a lot of people in East Asia have it too. I think it’s close to 95 to 100 percent, something like that. So our language comes from Mongolia or that general area or something like that. And it’s not from China. China is from a different language family.
Iseul: Grammar is different as well.
Seol: Yeah, that is true. And that’s why I have problems in learning Chinese.
Keith: Well, let’s talk about Chinese characters a little bit. What’s it called in Korean?
Seol: 한자.
Keith: Seol, how many 한자 do you know?
Seol: More than 2,000.
Keith: Really?
Seol: Yes.
Keith: Wow. You’re a special case, though.
Seol: No, I’m kidding. Maybe about a thousand.
Keith: Okay. And what does the average Korean know?
Iseul: I think they know about 300.
Seol: In my case, when I was a junior high school student it was about 50.
Keith: Well, that’s the thing. Nowadays, in modern Korea, it’s almost totally unnecessary to know any 한자 at all. And you can totally survive in Korea without knowing any Chinese characters. So, around the time when 세종대왕 created the 한글, the writing system was almost totally in 한자, and then gradually, gradually, gradually, over the last couple of hundred years, it just kind of faded out. And now it’s almost totally unnecessary to know 한자 at all, as is in Seol’s case.
Seol: Yes.
Keith: She knows 50. I probably know about ten, it’s okay.
Seol: Thank you.
Keith: So in North Korea, they don’t use 한자 at all. They totally abolished it after World War II. And this is because they just want to be as pure as possible, so they try to use pure Korean things.
Iseul: Yes, there’s no Koreanized English words, too.
Keith: Yes. So everything in North Korea is totally, totally Korean. North Korean 한글 is a little different than South Korean 한글. Just a little bit. Okay, so what about “friend”. What do South Koreans say?
Iseul: 친구
Keith: And what about North Koreans?
Seol: 동무. And, I think 동무 is the original form of saying 친구.
Iseul: Yeah, 친구 is a newer word invented not too long ago.
Keith: So, a lot of North Korean is very different. If you hear a North Korean broadcast, like the North Korean news, would you be able to understand it?
Seol: As a native speaker of Korean, I can understand 70 or 80 percent of what they’re saying.
Keith: And what about their intonation?
Seol: The intonation is totally different and, like, that’s the most noticeable thing that we can distinguish the two languages.
Keith: And they also have some other different spellings too. ?In South Korean Korean we say 영 or 육 for zero or six, but in North Korean they say...
Seol: 륙.


Keith: Yeah, it’s just a slight pronunciation change and they have different words. Well, that’s going to do it for today. Remember to stop by KoreanClass101.com. Leave us a couple of comments, a couple of posts, tell us what you think and yes, ask us any questions that you like. And if you have any requests for culture classes or lessons, just let us know. We’ll try to accommodate you as much as possible. Okay. See you.
Iseul: 해피 한글날!
Seol: Bye-bye.