What happens on Hangul Day (Oct 9)? Well, events go on around central Seoul and people gather in front of the statue of King Sejong near Gyoungbok Palace to find out more about his achievements (and take photos of each other under the statue!)
Throughout the day there are musical performances and dancing too. And opportunities for tourists to try on traditional hanboks.
In the nearby Hangul Museum there’s a hangul writing event and foreigners are also encouraged to write their names and countries for the wall display.
CIVIL SERVICE EXAM
One of the events held today is the re-enactment of the Joseon 과거 kwago exam – the civil service exam for upper class yangbang who wanted to become government officials. This exam was held at the palace and yangbang would travel from all over the country to take it.
It was a big deal and passing it was the only way into the civil service. Of course the candidates had to write their answers in Chinese characters not hangul! In the drama Deep Rooted Tree (SBS 2011) which is about King Sejong and creating hangul, the noblemen object to the new writing system of hangul worried that it’s so easy that COMMONERS will learn to read too and then be able to take the civil service exam. Shock horror!
Just like the noblemen in the dramas, the candidates in this reenactment sit on cushions outside in the grounds of the courtyard of Gyoungbok Palace. I like this ‘nobleman’s’ modern shoes, bag, and hat though!
VISITING THE JIPHYEONJEON Hall of Worthies
A meaningful place to visit on Hangul Day is the reconstruction of King Sejong’s Hall of Worthies 집현전 jip-hyeon-cheon which is within the grounds of Gyoungbok Palace – this is where the king and his scholars created hangul.
After this project was completed, the building was used as a place for the king to study. (This building is not always open to the public but it was open specially for Hangul Day)
The building has several rooms separated by paper sliding doors. There’s a small exhibition inside with information on the history of hangul. The floor and ceiling are especially interesting. The floors are made of specially treated paper and the ceiling is decorated with paintings of flowers and Chinese characters.