Monday, August 17, 2009

Indonesian Tribe Adopt Korean Alphabet as Writing System

A minority tribe in the city of 'Bauer-Bauer', located in Buton, Southeast Sulawesi, has chosen Korean alphabet Hangeul as the official alphabet to transcribe its aboriginal language.

With a population of around 60,000, the tribe stood to lose its language because it had no alphabet to transcribe it. SNU professors of linguistics heard of this and visited Bau-Bau to propose the adoption of Hangeul.

Both sides signed a memorandum of understanding on the adoption of hangeul. Professor LEE Ho-Yeong and Kim Ju-won at SNU Dept. of Linguistics led the effort and supplied textbooks written in the Korean alphabet.

The textbook comprises writing, speaking and reading sections and also explains the tribe's history, language and culture. The entire book is written in Hangeul. (picture right)

Department of linguistics has tried for several years to spread the Korean alphabet to minority tribes across Asia who do not have their own writing system. This is the first case of Hangeul becoming an official tool for communications outside Korean territory.

Starting July 21, 40 elementary school students began learning the Korean alphabet with the textbooks. The Bau-Bau city plans to set up a Korean center in September and to work on spreading the Korean alphabet to other regions by training Korean language teachers. The city will also display Hangul and the Roman alphabet together on signposts and is considering publishing history books and folktales in Hangul.

"It will be a meaningful case in history if the Indonesian tribe manages to keep its aboriginal language with the help of Hangeul. This case will become a stepping stone to spreading and promoting the Korean alphabet globally." Professor KIM Joo-won has expressed hope.

(Source:SNU PR Office, August 13, 2009)

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