It’s Hangeul Day (October 9th) and a national holiday, so there are events going on around the city celebrating the creation of hangeul. We went into town a few years ago to watch the Hangul Day events. A lot of the action takes place near King Sejong’s statue and Gyeongbok Palace. It’s also a popular day to visit the Hangeul Museum.
Statue of King Sejong in Sejongno, Jongno, Seoul
I’m not a huge museum fan but the Hangeul Museum almost feels more like an art gallery than a museum. Even the furniture looks like hangeul!
The museum has a modern feel with its generally black and white colour scheme. Glass walls with hanguel painted on them separate the exhibition rooms. The glass walls together with the delicate lighting and silhouettes of other visitors add more layers to the exhibitions giving an arty atmosphere. I like it.
There’s a lot of information around the exhibitions about King Sejong’s reign and how and why Hangeul was created – King Sejong wanted a new and easy alphabet that anyone could learn to read quickly since at the time only scholars where given the time and education to learn the thousands of Chinese characters necessary to be literate.
The exhibition also houses some copies of rare early books of hangeul. This was the first book written in hangeul: Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven. (용비어천가 yongbieocheonga). It’s a collection of songs written by Confucian literati to celebrate the founding of the Joseon dynasty. The book was compiled during King Sejong’s reign. (1418-1450)
yongbieocheonga Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven – the first book written in hangeul
The Korean sageuk drama Deep Rooted Tree (2011)- the murder mystery set around the time that King Sejong and his team of scholars were working on creating hangeul – takes its title from the first words of this song (below) starting from the top right hand side of the page and written vertically in pre-modern Korean 불휘 기픈남ㄱ ㄴ (뿌리 깊은 나무 buri kipun namu, the tree with deep roots …) I suppose that is what the early Joseon leaders hoped that Joseon would become – a tree with deep roots that’s sturdy and strong.