The Korean Hangul script as a global phonetic system

A fascinating article by Professor Sin Buyong, Director of KAIST’s new “Hangul” Engineering Institute” in which he argues for the broad application of the Korean hangul script globally. Korea is starting to expand the concept of technology to include many new applications, and this concept of hangul as a universal script that can more accurately, and more simply, represent all languages is particularly striking.  What is new here is the Koreans are not merely proposing more people in the world should learn Korean, but also that they could better write their own languages using the hangul script.

Professor Sin presented in a previous article an input device employing hangul and demonstrates how hangul is better than the Roman script for inputting English. I am not sure how realistic this example is, but it does suggest a new self confidence and creativity which is most welcome.

Demonstration of the greater efficiency of Hangul script over Roman script for inputting English.

9 responses to “The Korean Hangul script as a global phonetic system

  1. Daniel Lafontaine October 23, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Try writing wood in hangeul and you’ll see its deficiencies. 우드 or ood won’t quite cut it…

  2. Gardiner Peckham October 27, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I’m sorry to burst Koreans’ bubble about hangul being a “perfect” writing system, but it isn’t. It is near perfect for expressing the Korean language, but will not work for many others. Daniel’s example above is a good one. Besides that try beach (not beachy), or plurals in English (you can’t end a word with an “s” sound). Oh, by the way, “ㅎ” can’t be substituted for “f”. Are you eating your “hood” while you wear your “food”?

    • mockavel July 7, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      Hangul is phonetically accurate and its symbols are biologically based (for location of articulation)while English is not. Simple diacritics take care of those discrepancies. It is still a far more accurate system than Roman alphabet.

  3. Joe Walther October 30, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    and pan and fan would be problematic also.
    sink – think
    or this sentence: It’s a mystery, Mr. Lee.
    Hangul really is a great alphabet; it matches the Korean language perfectly. However, as it is today, it wouldn’t work for the numerous phonemes found in other languages around the world. Perhaps with a few more letters, it could work.

  4. Lobotronic November 6, 2011 at 6:51 am

    It’s a nice thought, but the langauges of the world are far too complex. There are speech sounds that exist in the world that the hangeul alphabet simply cannot transcribe: for example, Germans (and some African langauges) use a voiced bilabial fricative. Xhosa uses click sounds as phonemes in their language, which are nearly impossible to transcribe without the already-in-use IPA. And Koreans cannot articulate the bilabial approximant when it is followed by a rounded back vowel (as in would/wood; it comes out as “ood”). It simply wouldn’t work; they’d have to add new graphemes, and that would shatter the idea of one, true, perfect system.

  5. Joon June 27, 2012 at 3:28 am

    It is silly to claim that Hangul is better for transcribing English than Roman script, or to claim that it is a perfect writing system, or that it is the best or most beautiful writing system in the world, etc. In its current form, what is true about Hangul is that it can transcribe the Korean language almost perfectly, leaving almost no room for error in reading out loud. The system that is being used is a good one, and if enough consonants were added, it could become quite accurate for transcribing sounds of other languages as well. Words like “Beach” could be written as “비이ㅊ” under the current system, but that would still confuse the average Korean.

    • mockavel July 7, 2013 at 10:58 pm

      English speakers are used to all the errors that English contains when writing in Roman alphabet but it is true that Hangul is more phonetically accurate than most other language writing systems. It’s like IPA but without using completely arbitrary symbols and most languages can be written in Hangul with a few diacritics for adjustment. It really is one of the most, if not most phonetically and biologically based symbol system in language orthography today.

  6. Bu-Yong Shin August 21, 2014 at 6:05 am

    I would write ‘wood’ in Hangul, 우ㄷ.
    English alphabet is not for describing phonetics. It only describes ‘word’ as seen in would and wood. So it is not proper to compare alphabets with Hangul

  7. Bu-Yong Shin August 21, 2014 at 6:34 am

    I am the guy mentioned above as Sin above. I would rather be called Shin, which is also closer the original sound, 신(愼).
    I was surprised and delighted to find the article by 임마뉴얼 패트리치 and these comments.
    Hangul is a simplified version of the Hunminjungum(훈민정음 訓民正音) invented some 560 years ago by our King Sejong. Being simplified, Hangul cannot espress such foreign pronunciations as f, r, v distinguished from p,l and b. This is why most Koreans pronoince ‘coffee’ as ‘copi’
    Some Koreans like me suggest to recover the original Hunminjungum phonetics to cover forein languages, which I hope will be accepted by our government pretty soon.
    My arguemnt is that Human voice may be described phonetically with reasonable accuracy using 10 elemnts of consonants and 10 elements of vowels of Hangul. Here is some examples.
    f = ㅎ+ㅂ = ㆄ( exists only in Hunminjungum )
    whreas p=ㅂ+ㅎ (b blasted by h) = ㅍ( exists in Hangul as well )
    r=ㄹ whereas l= ᄙ( exists only in Hunminjungum ) , etc
    If you have further interested pls let me know or search for HUPS(Hangul based Universal Phonetic Script)
    Happy day.

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