Monday, November 5, 2012

King Sejong

King Sejong Jangheon Yeongmun Yemu Inseong Myeonghyo the Great
I have to confess I hadn't heard of King Sejong the Great of Korea at all until I received an email from my nephew Daniel saying they'd visited a museum devoted to this historical figure.

He (Daniel, not the King) took his family to the King Sejong Museum in Seoul, Korea last month.  He writes that the museum is located right across from the old capital complex and is very close to the U.S. Embassy there.

Daniel and Livia at the King Sejong Museum in Seoul
As I read about King Sejong, I realized he really earned his title, "The Great".  He was a wonderful ruler who fostered the arts and sciences, reformed the calendar system and helped set up a system of writing that  revolutionized the country.

The native phonetic alphabet system that King Sejong introduced, called Hangul, made it possible for anyone to easily learn to read and write.  Up until the creation of Hangul, only members of the highest social class were literate, as writing required learning very complex characters based on classical Chinese characters.

Inside the museum

King Sejong nurtured the introduction of a 28-letter Korean alphabet, first published in 1446, which changed his society forever.  His goal was for Koreans from every class to learn to read and write.  He also felt that, with a unique script, the Korean Language would provide the country with a cultural identity separate from their neighbors, China and Japan.

The new Hangul alphabet made it possible for anyone to learn to pronounce Korean script accurately after only a few hours of study, and be able to read and write in a matter of days.

Introducing Hangul had a big impact on Korean society.
The King Sejong Museum
King Sejong is credited with many technological advances during his reign.  He also helped foster inventors who developed significant designs for water clocks, sundials and rain gauges - and other "modern" devices.

A 10,000 Korean Won Bill featuring King Sejong the Great
The 10,000 KRW bill today bears the image of this great King.  [This is somewhere in the neighborhood of a $10 USD bill.  The current rate is about 1100 Korean Won to one U.S. dollar.]

King Sejong was a truly great man.  It was fun to read about him.  He had several wives and concubines and lots of children.  He ascended to the throne in 1418, even though he was the third son of King Taejong.  When he was a young prince he so excelled in various studies that his two older brothers made way for him to rule - the one becoming a wanderer, the other becoming a monk.

The King Sejong Museum looks like an interesting place to visit.

Thank you, Daniel, for sharing your experience there!

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