I came across an interesting article on the website of the Korean Embassy in the Netherlands. Apparently, a tribe based in Bauer Indonesia has chosen to use Hangeul (Korean writing) as its official writing system.
The 60.000 people of the tribe, were about to lose their native language due to the lack of a writing system, are learning to write Hangeul to express themselves. In a press event funded and initiated by the Korean National Language Institute, expressed by Korean media as “The globalization of the Korean Alphabet system“.
Apparently, the Hunminjeongeum Research Institute is pushing their agenda to introduce Korean alphabet across Asian tribes that have no writing system yet. Before selecting the Hangeul system, the tribe officials got an expenses-paid trip to Seoul.
This raises a number of questions for me. Is it a good thing that Koreans are pushing their writings across Asia? Is it really that bad if a tribe loses it’s native language (and isolation) within a country? Why teach them Korean writing system and not the International Phonetic Alphabet instead?
Besides political agenda and the questions I just raised, there might be a good thing to this choice as well. As some may argue that Korean is one of the easiest alphabets to learn, the language is often praised by linguists as the most efficient alphabet ever invented. I agree to that since I learned to read the alphabet myself in just two days. Compared to other Asian alphabets, Korean is a phonetic system of symbols that show specific sounds, unlike Chinese or Japanese. The Japanese have a combination of Chinese characters (kanji) and phonetic symbols. The advantage of Korean above Roman alphabet is that a Korean characters are combinations of components representing different sounds. English letters are not good for phonetics.
The Korean language is quite accurate when is comes to phonetics. However, there are some syllabols and sounds that can’t be captured by hangeul. (ex: ‘f,’ ‘th’ and ‘Z’)
On the up side, while I presume that the tribe’s Hangeul writing will rather isolate then aggegrate their development of the language in Indonesia, they special souls will likely be big stars when they head out to Korea. Korean TV would probably be able to make a hilarious show about the tribe. Interestingly enough, the official website is still in Indonesian.