Chinese characters in the past and present of Korea

Chinese characters are the earliest words appearing on the Korean peninsula. Their fate on the peninsula is no less than the heroine of a palace drama. It was first introduced to the peninsula from the Han Dynasty, and then won the Sacred Heart and then to the modern times. Losing the sacred pet, even being beaten into the cold palace, and finally to the modern era of grievances, regained attention, Chinese characters have gone through a long journey on the Korean peninsula.

Before the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty, King Sejong, promulgated the “Xunmin Zhengyin” in 1446, Chinese characters have always been the only official text on the Korean Peninsula. Even now, Korean-speaking words from Chinese characters still account for more than 70%, but over the past 100 years, Chinese characters have gradually moved away from the lives of ordinary Koreans. Nowadays, Korean nationality’s ID card will have a corresponding Chinese character logo next to the Korean name. The traces of Chinese characters can be seen everywhere in major roads, tourist attractions, subway stations, etc. This change has occurred since the Kim Dae-jung government.

For Korean young people with heavy homework, it is quite tangled to invest in Chinese in addition to Korean and English.

The rule of Chinese characters, the rise of righteousness
The introduction of Chinese characters into the Korean peninsula dates back to the period of the Han Dynasty (203 BC – 157 BC). With the establishment of four counties in the northern and central parts of the Korean peninsula, the locals and the Central Plains are more closely linked in politics, economy and culture. The Chinese characters as the carrier of the Central Plains culture are also more widely spread in the local area.

Before the introduction of Chinese characters, the Korean peninsula did not have its own words; after the introduction of Chinese characters, the locals used Chinese characters as their written language. So, how deep is their understanding of Chinese characters and Chinese culture?

According to historical records, as early as the Goryeo Dynasty, the words “Jade articles”, “Word Lin” and “Words” have become the basic textbooks for aristocratic children. The Chinese characters such as “Said the Text” and “Mandarin” have become the content of the teaching of the Guozijian, and even become the key subject of the Imperial Examination. However, the Chinese characters in this period are still limited to the royal family. The ordinary people do not have the right to learn Chinese characters. They only speak the local Korean language.

In order to change the situation of the “big characters do not know” of the civilians, in 1443, with the help of scholars, King Sejong created the first set of writing system of the Korean nation – “Symologists”.

The appearance of “Xunmin Zhengyin” did not threaten the “Positive Palace” status of Chinese characters at first, because the aristocrats still used pure Chinese characters, and “Xunmin Zhengyin” was only used as a mark for the “difficult and elegant” of women and ordinary people. It is used in the way. Therefore, the “Xunmin Zhengyin” was not called “Korean” or “Korean” when it was created, but was nicknamed “谚文”. What we now call “Korean (??)” is the name that appeared only in the early 20th century.

The biggest difference between Korean and Chinese characters is that Chinese characters are ideograms and Korean characters are phonograms. All Korean is like a letter of English. Each word represents only one pronunciation, and the word itself does not have any meaning.

After the emergence of Korean, although it has not been widely used, but unlike before, Chinese characters have been pronounced and written in Korean. This also laid the foundation for the subsequent replacement of Chinese characters by Korean.

Abolition theory vs mixed theory
In the modern times, due to the introduction of the Western Kaihua Thought, the folks gradually appeared to mix Chinese and Korean, and even completely abolish the Chinese characters. According to different political backgrounds, this process can be divided into four periods: the late Han Dynasty enlightenment period (1880-1910), the Japanese emperor colonial period (1910-1945), and the US military and political period (1945-1948). ) and the Republic of Korea (1948 to the present).

In the first period, the Korean dynasty was impacted by foreign cultures and was full of changes in culture and politics. During this period, the promoters of the Chinese abolition and Korean-language were not the progressives of South Korea, but American missionaries. Because the missionaries must first learn the local language and words in order to preach in Korea. In the process of learning, American missionaries felt that Chinese characters were difficult to understand, and Korean was easy to learn, so they began to abolish Chinese characters in Korea. This has also become the beginning of South Korea’s “going to Chinese characters”.

The second period was during the period of Japanese imperialism. In the early days of Japan’s domination of South Korea, there was no restriction on language and writing. Therefore, the Korean Language Society, which was centered on Zhou Shijing, was established during this period. The purpose and significance of the composition of the Society is the abolition of Chinese characters and Korean. The main activities of the Korean Language Society are summarized as follows: first, the establishment of the Korean language day; second, the publication of the magazine “Korean”; third, the establishment of the “Korean Usage Specification”; fourth, the organization compiled the Korean national language dictionary. However, the good times did not last long. In the middle and late period of Japanese imperialist rule, Japan interrupted all Korean language education in order to practice the “national obliteration” policy, and the use of Korean and Korean was also banned.

The Japanese colonial period was an important period for the Korean people to change their awareness of Chinese characters. Japan adopted the “national obliteration” policy in colonial rule, and the Korean people can only learn to use Japanese. Prior to this, Chinese characters were a symbol of Korean traditional culture and Central Plains culture, but after Japanese colonial rule, Chinese characters became a symbol of Japanese imperialism. This is also an important reason why the late government and scholars demanded the abolition of Chinese characters.

The third and fourth periods were during the US military and political period and the Republic of Korea. During the Japanese rule, the official language of Korea was Japanese rather than Korean. Therefore, after South Korea got rid of Japanese rule, the primary task was to promote the use of Korean while abolishing Japanese. The abolition of Chinese characters in this period was dominated by the government, so there were not many folk voices calling for abolition. Instead, many scholars published articles in magazine news against the abolition of Chinese characters. The views of scholars can be divided into two major factions, one is the abolition of Chinese characters and the other is the mixed theory of Chinese and Korean.

The scholars of the Chinese character abolition theory believe that the Chinese character abolished the movement in order to fully use Korean, and the Chinese characters and Chinese vocabulary will affect the development of Korean itself, which is closely related to the nationalist spirit. As a representative figure of the Chinese character abolition movement in the 1950s, Cui Xianpei once envisioned the scene after the abolition of Chinese characters: all citizens can read and understand the text, and the national knowledge level is greatly improved. Nationals can better understand the domestic and international affairs through newspapers, and improve the level of national science and technology and education to promote production.

The abolition and revival of Chinese characters
After the recovery of South Korea, the Korean language was established as the only official language by the introduction of the “US Army Decree No. 6”, and the legal status of Korean was established. On December 8, 1945, the Chinese character abolished the resolution.

The content of the resolution is: textbooks for elementary and middle schools must be codified by Korean, but Chinese characters can be marked in brackets after Korean in case of need; for the inheritance of traditional culture and communication with neighboring countries, Chinese is required in middle school. Or Chinese course.

This resolution only determines the Korean-specific system in textbooks, and still implements a mixed system of Chinese and Korean in newspapers, magazines, and documents. Moreover, this resolution is the only textual norm promulgated and implemented before the establishment of the Republic of Korea. As a cornerstone, the Republic of Korea also promulgated the “Law on Korean Law” at the same time as the founding of the Republic of Korea. The formula of the Republic of Korea should be written in Korean, only in the short term. Chinese characters can be used in combination if there is a need.

The phrase “when there is a need in the short term” is not rigorous, resulting in the fact that Korean official documents and newspapers and periodicals have been used in combination with Chinese characters and Koreans for a long time.

In order to change this chaotic situation, in 1970, Park Chung-hee regime strengthened the abolition of the Chinese character policy, the most influential of which was the “Korean-specific five-year plan” promulgated by Park Chung-hee. From 1968, which was promulgated by the Decree, to 1972, Korean texts were used as the only means of marking from school textbooks to household registration and official documents.

The “Korean Five-Year Plan” promulgated by the Park Chung-hee government is different from the various laws and policies promulgated by the government before. It is a mandatory policy without any room. Although many scholars still express dissatisfaction and protest against this, the abolition of Chinese characters is the trend of the times, and scholars can do nothing.

Later, with the change of the Korean regime, different regimes have different attitudes toward Chinese characters. Kim Dae-jung issued a presidential decree in 1999, requiring that “and use Chinese characters” be used as necessary to ensure accurate expression of official documents. However, the journey of abolishing Chinese characters in the past 100 years has enabled Koreans to enter the lives of ordinary people. Originally, they lacked the Chinese characters of the masses and their status was even more precarious.

Since the reform and opening up, China’s economy has developed rapidly and its international status has greatly improved. South Korea and other Chinese cultural circles began to re-emphasize Chinese characters, and the call to resume using Chinese characters has gradually increased. The Chinese language curriculum has been restored to become a formal education course for Korean middle and high schools, and the General Federation of Chinese Character Education Promotion has been established to revive Chinese characters.

In 1999, President Kim Dae-jung once published a speech on “If you ignore Chinese characters, it is difficult to understand China’s traditional culture and classical books”, and said that “Chinese characters are a common bridge for the Chinese character culture circle”, and then proposed “Chinese characters combined use promotion plan”. It is required to use Chinese characters in government official documents, names of people, names of places, names of roads, and traditional places of interest, so as to avoid confusion caused by the ambiguity of Korean.

As for the Chinese character education, in fact, during the Jin Dazhong government period, the “Chinese Language and Literature” also appeared as a secondary school elective subject in the subject curriculum, but in the later period, with the change of political power, Chinese characters and Chinese character education were not taken seriously by the new government, and gradually disappeared. In the classroom of the students.

Recently, according to a media poll of parents and teachers in a Korean media, 83% (89.1% of parents and 77.3% of teachers) agree that primary school students learn Chinese characters. Another Korean expert published a research report entitled “Learning Chinese characters is conducive to the intellectual development of young people”. It can be seen that the social and academic circles are very supportive and optimistic about the restoration of Chinese character education. It is not surprising that Chinese characters will return to Korean classes in the future. It’s just what the students think about themselves, but also the guidance of the society.