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Manoa 14.2 (2002-2003) 22
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Sejong's Preface to the Promulgation of Han'gul
[ The Valley of Utopia]
The speech sounds of our country's language are different from those of the Middle Kingdom (China) and are not communicable with the sounds of Chinese characters. Therefore, when my beloved ignorant people want to say something, many of them are unable to say something, many of them are unable to express their feelings in writing. Feeling compassion for this I have newly designed twenty-eight letters, only wishing to have everyone readily practice and use them conveniently every day.
King Sejong (1397�1450) was one of Korea's greatest rulers. Among other innovations of his was the creation of a council of scholars that was charged with improving all aspects of life in the country. The council's technological advances included the invention in 1443 of han'gul, a phonetic system that enabled Koreans to learn and use their native language easily. Han'gul could express new words, words unique to the Korean language, and, as the fifteenth-century scholar Sin Suk-chu said, "the sound of the wind and the crowing of roosters." King Sejong promulgated its use in a treatise, Correct Sounds to Teach the People, in 1446.