History of KoreaⅤ. Joseon Society Focused on the Yangban Class1. A New Nation Is Built

C. The Ruling System Is Restructured and the Independent Culture Is Cultivated

By strengthening his authority, King Taejong restored peace in the chaotic political environment. King Sejong hoped to further develop the state under a stabilized regime. King Sejong thus encouraged academic activities, placed men of high learning and virtue in office, and applied their opinions in governing the state. He encouraged agriculture by introducing new farming technologies, revamped the tax system, institutionalized the reduction of taxes during years of bad harvest. He thus exerted tremendous efforts in stabilizing the livelihood of the populace.

Meanwhile, King Sejong became concerned that many of his people were illiterate and thus faced difficulties in their lives. He became aware that the Chinese characters were too difficult to learn and use. He thus devised and promulgated Hunminjeongeum(hangul), an indigenous alphabet for the Korean people,which made it possible for anyone to readily learn and use it. He made the historic achievement of improving the lives of the people and promoting an independent national culture.

During the reign of King Seongjong, ‘Gyeongbukdaejeon’, a code of laws governing the state, was established, which became the basic code for the Joseon kingdom. The civil service examination was expanded, schools were fostered and governance based on Neo-Confucianism was solidified. As seen here, Joseon restructured its systems and strengthened the framework for governance.

Cultural Heritage of Korea

Hunminjeongeum, the Alphabet for the Korean People

The original name of Hangul, the Korean alphabet, was Hunminjeongeum. It means ‘proper sounds to instruct the people’. King Sejong became concerned that his people faced many difficulties in learning and using the Chinese characters as they were too difficult. He thus devised an alphabet for the Korean people which they could readily learn and use in their daily lives. However, this was not welcomed by many subjects whose learning was based on Chinese characters and who thought that Chinese culture was paramount. King Sejong, however, devised Hunminjeongeum despite the fierce opposition. He then exerted efforts in the dissemination of the Korean alphabet through the writing of poetry or Buddhist scriptures in Hunminjeongeum.For some time though, Hunminjeoneum was looked down upon by the Yangban class. Its use were banned for some time due to the fact that writings criticizing the state was written in Hangul. After the collapse of the yangban society at the end of the Joseon period, Hangul became popular following the introduction of modern western-style education. Efforts were made to maintain Hangul under the Japanese colonial rule, which led to the development of Hangul as the world-class characters that they are today. Hangul originally had 28 vowels and consonants but today, only 14 consonants and 10 vowels are in use. Hangul is recognized as the easiest to learn, easiest to pronounce and the most scientific letter system in the world.
Hunminjeongeum
Euijeongbu and the Six Ministries
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