As the second Korean Wave continues its surge across the globe, you might have find your friends—or yourself—engrossed in mastering the Korean language, affirming that learning Hangul was the easy part in spite of its unusual appearance.
This is because it is, in fact, designed to be easy to learn. Prior to its conception, Korean was transliterated in Hanja—the ancient Chinese writing system with tens of thousands of logographic characters. Sejong the Great, the fourth ruler of the Joseon dynasty, created Hangul in 1443 in his effort to improve his kingdom’s literacy, making it simpler and more methodical. Though it did not quite catch on until the 19th century, it was eventually accepted as the national writing system.
Dedicated to the linguistic history of the Korean language and its alphabet, the National Hangeul Museum was established in 2014 near the National Museum of Korea. It details its development through a diverse collection of historical texts and artifacts showcasing the widespread use of Hangul.
The permanent exhibit particularly focuses on the era of Korea’s hardship during the Imperial Japanese occupation. Hangul, as well as the Korean language itself, was heavily suppressed under Japanese rule from 1910 to 1945, despite its official recognition in 1894. It persevered through it all, used and studied in secret by people even under oppression.
Standing out among the collection is an almost antique Underwood typewriter with a unique four-set arrangement of Hangul components. Invented in 1933 by Song Ki-ju, this is the oldest Korean typewriter to exist, a culturally important artifact in the language’s history.
The museum is also notable for its sleek, modern design, from the exterior to the on-site cafe. Throughout its premises are simple geometric shapes—the vowels and consonants of Hangul, minimalistic yet strongly memorable.
Know Before You Go
The museum is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., or 9 p.m. on Saturdays. Free admission.