Korean THE NEW LAN­GUAGE OF LOVE

Asian Geographic - - Science - Col­lec­tors’ Edi­tion 2016

A heart­throb male lead stares in­tensely into his doe-eyed beauty, whis­pers a sweet sarang-hae-yo and leans in for a kiss. All over the world, view­ers have stayed glued to their ca­ble TV, swoon­ing and bawl­ing over the dra­mas that have be­come dis­tinctly Korean – the epit­ome of 21st-cen­tury soap opera. Hal­lyu (the Korean wave) has rev­o­lu­tionised pop cul­ture: sarang-hae-yo has come to em­body the sin­cer­est ‘I love you’ and Korean it­self has come to be the new lan­guage of courtship in the East.

Korean is an iso­lated lan­guage with no ge­nealog­i­cal roots to other lan­guages. Con­tem­po­rary Korean, which has evolved over the cen­turies from Old Korean through Mid­dle Korean, boasts ap­prox­i­mately 80 mil­lion flu­ent speak­ers to­day. The Korean lan­guage used to be pegged to the Chi­nese script and only the elite had the time to learn it. In 1443, King Se­jong the Great cre­ated the Hangeul al­pha­bet to en­cour­age lit­er­acy among the masses. Hangeul’s orig­i­nal name was Hun­min Jeongeum, which lit­er­ally trans­lates as ‘the cor­rect sounds for the in­struc­tion of the peo­ple’.

Though the lan­guage is greatly pop­u­larised by the me­dia, there are still sev­eral Korean phrases that are unique to their cul­tural con­text. Your av­er­age Korean-to-english dic­tionary would tell you that 정 ( jeong), for ex­am­ple, means ‘af­fec­tion’. But rather than a sim­plis­tic form of af­fec­tion, it en­com­passes com­pas­sion, com­mu­nity and em­pa­thy. 정is a kind of af­fec­tion that you show even to your en­emy, a bond shared be­tween all hu­mans.

WRIT­TEN SCRIPT A Korean syl­la­ble is di­vided into three parts: ch’os­ong (ini­tial con­so­nant), chung­song (peak vowel) and chong­song (fi­nal con­so­nant). For ex­am­ple, with the word ‘한’ (pro­nounced ‘han’), each part tran­scribes a syl­la­ble. That is, al­though한 may look like a sin­gle char­ac­ter, it com­prises three dis­tinct let­ters: ㅎ h, ㅏa, andㄴ n. Each Han­gul char­ac­ter is com­posed of two to five let­ters, in­clud­ing at least one con­so­nant and one vowel.

Un­earth the his­tory of Asia’s great sport­ing cul­tures of Muay Thai, Sumo and Kushti wrestling, with re­lated travel in­for­ma­tion on Thai­land, Ja­pan and In­dia. A cul­tural an­thro­pol­o­gist gets the ink on Asia’s tat­too tra­di­tions from the Naga of In­dia, the Kalinga of the Philip­pines, and the Mentawai of In­done­sia. Take a jour­ney on a great pil­grim­age in the re­gion, join the throng of one of Asia’s many colour­ful fes­ti­vals, or ex­plore liv­ing his­tory through the arche­o­log­i­cal and ar­chi­tec­tural won­ders of Asia in­her­ited from ancient civ­i­liza­tions. This is travel with a dif­fer­ence, travel with­out bor­ders – travel through his­tory. www.asian­geo.com/sub­scribe

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