This is quite a difficult scene to understand as Song Sam Moon has some very long lines and he speaks quickly. (So I’ve broken the longer sections down to look at them one by one) But it’s an interesting scene and I wanted to understand it as here the scholars are putting forward their reasons for being against King Sejong creating a new alphabet (Hangul) for their country. (Up until this point they were using Chinese characters).
We can learn why they were so passionate about keeping Chinese characters – even though the Korean language had different sounds and so not all the sounds in Korean could be presented by the Chinese characters.
When the King finally tells Song Sam Moon and Park Paeng Nyeon what his secret project is – to create a new language for the Joseon people – they are flabbergasted. They think it goes against the natural flow of history. Song Sam Moon is particularly vocal about his dismay at this idea and he tells the King so directly. (Joseon had a special relationship with China at the time, and the Chinese writing system was seen as sophisticated.)
But I wonder if scholars could really speak to the King like this – so directly and in a loud voice! – considering the Confucian values at the time that insisted on showing respect to those in higher ranks, particularly the KING! But dramatically, for the drama, this scene adds spice and shows us why the King has kept the project secret up until now – he knew he would face opposition from the scholars because his thinking is so radical. Did the scholars really feel like this or is this just something added to spice up the drama? I don’t know but surely there were traditional scholars who were against breaking away from China in this way. (BTW Song Sam Moon and Park Paeng Nyeon were famous scholars in history and two of the six martyred ministers killed trying to support King Tanjong. I visited their tomb here.
Deep Rooted Tree, SBS 2011, King Sejong reveals his secret project to the scholars
12:20 – 16:20
(BTW The Korean below has been checked by a Korean native speaker)
성삼문: 전하 글자를 만들다니오? 글자를 인위적으로 만들어 성공한 곳은 그 어디에도 없습니다.
Song Sam Moon: Your Highness, you are making a new alphabet? There is no place that has successfully artificially made letters.
[글자 letter, 인위적 man-made/artificial 성공한 successful, ]
???가 왜 사라졌겠습니까? 훌륭하지 않아서이겠습니까? 아닙니다.
Why did taesapa(? not sure what this language is) disappear? Because the letters weren’t excellent? No.
[사라지다 disappear, 훌륭하다 excellent,]
글자란 본시 수천년을 두고 자연발생적으로 생겨나야 되는 것이기 때문입니다.
It’s because, fundamentally, letters have to be formed naturally over thousands of years.
[본시 fundamentally, 자연발생적으로 spontaneously/freely, 생기다 be formed,]
한자가 왜 중화를 지배하고, 주변국을 모두 지배하는 것이겠습니까?
Why have Chinese characters dominated China and now dominate the marginal states?
[한자 Chinese characters, 중화 China,지배하 dominate/reign/control,주변국 marginal state, ]
한자는 수천년을 두고 생겨나 그 자체로 사람의 역사이기 때문입니다.
Because letters are formed over thousands of years and they themselves are the history of the people.
[ 그 자체로 they themselves, 역사 history]
헌데 어찌 전하께서 운학에 통달하신 전하께서 이런 무모함을 보이시는 것입니까? 왜 중화의 질서를 벗어나고, 역사를 거스르려 하십니까?
But how can Your Highness, Your Highness who is so well-versed in the study of the sounds of Chinese characters, show this recklessness? Why do you deviate from the order of China and go against history?
[어찌 how, 운학 the study of the phonetic sounds of Chinese characters, 통달하다 proficient/well-versed in .., 무모함 recklessness, 질서 (public) order, 벗어나다 deviate from, 거스르다 go against / swim against the tide]
세종: 그것을 검증 받으려한다. 너희에게.
Sejong: I plan to get verification about this. From you.
[검증 verification, 받다 receive /get, 너희 you (plural)]
박팽년: 전하 무슨 말씀이시옵니까?
Park Paeng Nyeon: Your Highness, what are you saying?
세종: 너희도 천지개원이다. 헌데 과인이 왜 이 사실을 알려주지 않고, 너희들에게 운학 공부만 하라 했겠느냐?
Sejong: You are also part of my ‘Earth and Sky’ group. But why didn’t I tell you the truth about this and just made you study phonetics?
[천지개원 the ‘earth and sky’ secret group in the drama in which all the members have special tattoos, 과인 used only by the King meaning I.]
이미 대부분의 글자가 완성이 됐다. 내일부터는 너희들에게 그것을 알려줄 것이다.
Already most of the letters are complete. From tomorrow I will teach you about this.
[이미 already 대부분 most 완성 complete]
허니 너희들은 아무런 정견도 없이 그리고, 아무 편견도 없이 나의 글자를 보아다오. 그리고 판단하거라. 나의 글자가 역사를 거스르는 것인지 아닌지.
Then without any sort of fixed opinions or prejudice, you can look at the letters. Then decide. You decide if the letters go against history or not.
성삼문: 허나 소신이 안된다고 한들…
Song Sam Moon: But even if I go against this (project) …
[소신 means’ I ‘used by high ranks in front of the King. cf. 소인 used my nobi servants to anyone of higher rank. Chae Yoon also refers to himself as 소인 not 소신 in front of the King.]
세종: 허면은 무로 돌릴것이다. 내 결단코 반포치 않을 것이야.
Sejong: In that case I will turn back. I will never make the proclamation (to the public).
[돌리다 turn, 결덩코 never, 반포 proclamation]
성삼문: 소신들의 세치혀에 이 일에 명을 거시겠단 말씀이옵니까?
Song Sam Moon: Are you saying that you will decide the fate of this work according to our opinion?
[명을 거시다 literally ‘threaten the life of’ (but he’s talking about the future of the letters)]
세종: 너희 뿐만이 아니라. 또 한 명의 판관이 기다리고 있다.
Sejong: Not just you two. There is one more person’s judgement I am waiting for.
[ 뿐만 아니라 besides / not just, 판관 judgement, 기다리다 wait ]
내 아무리 큰 힘을 들여 만들었다고 해도, 이것이 역사를 거스르는 것이고 조선을 후퇴시키며, 백성들에게 아무 도움이 되지 않는다 그리 말한다면…
Even though I put a lot of effort into this, if it goes against history and will be a regression for Joseon and not be a help to my people, then in that case ….
[큰 힘 a lot of effort, 들이다 put, 후퇴 regression 백성 people 도움 help (n)]
나는 버릴것이다. 허니 그것만 약조해다오. 온 정성을 다해 죽을 힘을 다해 판단하겠노라 그것만 약조해 다오.
I will give up. But make just one promise. Make the decision with all your heart and with all your strength. Just promise me this.
[버리다 throw away/give up, 약조 promise,온 정성을 다해 with all your heart, 죽을 힘을 다해 with all your strength]