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Hangeul Day comes back as public holiday anew

Posted October. 07, 2013 09:16,   


“The King created 28 characters for ordinary people in person, and (collectively) named them Hunminjeongeum (correct alphabets for teaching the people).” This section recorded in the last chapter for December without specifying a date for the Year 25, in September 1443, under the King Sejong of the Joseon Wangjo Sillok (Annuls of the Joseon Dynasty) is the first record on the creation of Hunminjeongeum (Hangeul). About three years later in the Year 28 (1446) under the King Sejong, the final chapter for September in the annals notes “Hunminjeongeum was written this month.” Since there are no remaining official records on the process of how Hangeul was created, the project to create Hangeul was apparently conducted in secret.

Hangeul Day was instated during Japans’ colonial rule of Korea. The Joseon Language Society, the predecessor of the Hangeul Society, judged September 1446 as the time when Hangeul was completed, and designated 29th or the last day of September in lunar calendar (November 4 in solar calendar) as “Ga Gya Geo Gyeo Day” in 1926. They called as such because learning Hangeul starts with reciting “Ga Gya, Geo Gyeo.” The Joseon Language Society started using the title “Hangeul Day” in 1928 and converted the day according to the Julian calendar in 1931, designating October 29 as Hangeul Day. And three years later, the organization converted the day anew according to the Gregory calendar, and named October 28 Hangeul Day.

October 9 in the solar calendar was designated Hangeul Day like today after Korea’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule. The decisive factor for this change was a record reading “Jeongtong Year 11 September Sanghan (first 10 days)” in the Hunminjeong Haerye (Explanations and Examples), which was found in 1940 in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province. By translating September 10, the final day of the first 10 days for September in 1446 based on the lunar calendar, they designated October 9 as Hangeul Day. Therefore, Hangeul Day was designated as a public holiday in 1949, but was dropped from the official holidays in 1991 on the ground that Korea had too many public holidays. By reflecting the status of Hangeul, October 9 has become a public holiday again from this year.

In a survey conducted in 400 primary and secondary school students and adults in Seoul by Prof. Lee Won-seung at Dong Seoul University, only 53.5 percent (214) accurately answered October 9 as Hangeul Day. As Hangeul Day has become a public holiday again this year, many more people will now be able to accurately tell Hangeul’s birthday. Various cultural events will take place throughout this week to mark the 567th anniversary of Hangeul’s proclamation, and it would be desirable to celebrate Hangeul Day by enjoying those events.

Shin Seong-mi, Culture Desk reporter (savoring@donga.com)