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Miracle of letters

Posted December. 14, 2022 07:58,   

Updated December. 14, 2022 07:58


"Trees with deep roots are not shaken by the wind, thus producing beautiful flowers and ample fruits./ Water that runs deep does not dry in the draught, thus creating a stream and joining the sea." They are excerpts translated into the modern language from 'Yongbieocheonga,’ literally Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven, ancient Korea's first work written in the Korean alphabet, “Hangeul.” There are no Chinese characters in work. The praise by a Japanese scholar Hideki Noma about Hangeul, "the language of this land sprouts from the deepest of their mind spring after being hindered by Chinese characters for a thousand years," is not an exaggeration.

Noma explains to Japanese readers in his book "The Birth of Hangeul" that the creation of the Korean language is “a miracle of letters” that no one has ever seen in the world. Also, being a painter, he described the process of creating the Korean alphabet almost as if he painted it in a picture. The foreign professor’s rave excites us more than by one of our own.

Noma cites phrases from the poem "Life" by Korean poet Shin Dong-jib, adding that Hangeul made such poems possible. "We are still calling out names of those / who are gone in the smoke of battles from the past / Names that have been embraced by body warmth / Those who have survived, testify for the deceased / Those who have passed, accuse those who have survived." The poet painfully depicts the tragic reality of the Korean War. Would it have been possible without Hangeul? I think not. As Professor Noma said, the tragedy could have been described in the Roman alphabet, just like the nations without their languages. That leads us to what Noma called the "miracle of letters,” or the value of Hangeul.

Frankly, however, we do not appreciate how precious our language is and even "hurt" it carelessly. We use English words way too often and think it cool to mix some English whenever we say anything. We collude in degrading our language instead of preserving its beauty. At the same time, a foreign scholar praises great analogies of trees and water in Korea's ancient epic in Hangeul, describing the language as an elegant yet powerful melody. The acclaim by an academic not of our own leaves us feeling ashamed.