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US Media: ‘Hangeul’ is Korea’s Newest Export

Posted September. 14, 2009 08:49,   


Major U.S. media have reported on the adoption of the Korean alphabet “hangeul” as the written language of an ethnic minority in Indonesia.

The New York Times carried a story on Lee Ki-nam, 75, at the Hunminjeongeum Society in its report “South Korea’s Latest Export: Its Alphabet.”

Lee, who made a fortune in real estate and construction to establish the think tank, is taking the lead in spreading hangeul to the world.

Once a teacher, she established in 2002 the Wonam Culture Foundation named after her father’s penname, and began efforts to introduce the Korean alphabet overseas.

Early on, she sought to introduce hangeul through Korean missionaries working abroad, including in Nepal, Mongolia, Vietnam and China. She founded the society jointly with Kim Ju-won, a linguistics professor at Seoul National University, in 2007.

Since last year, she has supported a project to enable the Cia-Cia, a minority tribe in Indonesia, to adopt hangeul to transcribe their native language and published Korean alphabet-based textbooks for the tribe.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Cia-Cia decided to use the Korean alphabet to keep their disappearing native language, introducing the story of “Hangeul Island.”

The daily said the Indonesian island of Buton adopted hangeul to protect its native language that has no characters, and has started teaching the Korean alphabet to students.