Korean THE NEW LANGUAGE OF LOVE
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.
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