Although ticketing for the Hope Concert has already passed, I wanted to post a link with this year’s concert theme of Happiness, Sorrow, Anger, and Joy. Each of the four characters in Hangul are actual phonetic spellings of the Chinese root word for these emotions. Hangul was invented by King Sejong the Great who is still revered today as one of the greatest kings in Korean history. During the period of his reign, Korea did not have its own writing system. Instead, all written forms of communication were done using Chinese characters. In addition, Korea had a caste system and maintaining that social hierarchy was very important back then. Education in reading and writing was reserved only for the upper class called yangban. Scholars and government officials also came from this class as lower social classes were not allowed to take civil service entrance exams. Commoners couldn’t read any of the notices posted on the village bulletin boards because they were written in Chinese characters called Hanja in Hangul. King Sejong was unhappy about this and wanted to create a writing system that was easy to learn so that even commoners could become literate. He is highly respected as a wise ruler even till this day. Here’s a link about his contributions to Korea: King Sejong the Great
For those familiar with the Chinese language, there are thousands of characters one has to learn. Not only is it used in Chinese speaking countries, but in others as well. For example, the Japanese writing system uses three writing systems, one of which includes Chinese characters called Kanji. Students studying Japanese have difficulty because hiragana and katakana have a reasonable amount of vowels and consonants that can easily be memorized while Kanji requires the student to know Chinese characters. >< Here’s a useful link: Japanese writing system
Unlike Korean, which is based purely on phonetics, or the sound of the word, Chinese characters have a clear meaning that can easily be distinguished just by the sight of it. Many of them look like pictures of the words they describe, as in the example for horse, “ma”. In Chinese it looks like this: 馬. Do you notice the four strokes at the bottom? They represent the horse’s legs as they run. In Korean, horse is pronounced “mal” (말). If taken out of context with just the Hangul word, one wouldn’t be able to tell if this meant “horse” or “word” or “to speak”. That is why Korean newspapers and magazines still use Chinese characters called hanja to clarify the meanings of Hangul words.
Although there are several characters that sound the same in Hangul, there are many different Chinese characters that could represent it. This is why Korean students are learning Chinese characters in school and Koreans can read Chinese characters. However, pronunciation of these characters are quite different in Korean than they are in Chinese.
Now, onto the four characters on the poster that you’ve all seen for this year’s Hope Concert. It says “Lee Seung Gi” [do I really need to translate this for Airens? I’m sure you all know how his name is spelled in Hangul. 🙂 ] Underneath his name it says, “Hope Concert”. In the middle starting from the top row from left to right are Hangul characters for hope and sorrow respectively. Traditional Korean is read from top to bottom, left to right in that order. However, the characters in this concert poster don’t form a coherent sentence and so it doesn’t matter which way it is read. At the bottom row from left to right are the words for anger and joy in that order. Finally, the last line of the poster at the bottom states the location of the concert: Olympic Park Gymnastics Stadium. As you can see in the last line, modern Korean is written and read like English, from left to right, straight across.
Credit: Hook Entertainment
To begin with, 희, prounounced “Hee” is actually based on the Chinese character or hanja,喜, which represents Happiness.
애 in Hangul is pronounced “eh” and is the phonetic pronunciation for the Chinese character 哀, which represents Sorrow. 哀想 are the Chinese characters for the phrase,”sorrowful thoughts”, with 想 meaning thoughts. It is pronounced “Eh Sahng” in Hangul.
노, pronounced “noh” is part of the Korean word “분노”, pronounced “Boon Noh”, for Anger. In Chinese, the character for “노” is 怒.
락, pronounced “rahk” is represented by the Chinese character 樂, which means joy, happiness, enjoyment, pleasure, delight. Thus, the meaning of Joy in the concert poster is derived from this character. In Korean, this Chinese character is commonly spelled “낙”, pronounced “nahk”. An example of a Korean word using this character is “낙천적” which is pronounced “Nahk Chun Juk” and means optimistic. The Chinese characters used for this word are: 樂天的.
I hope this provides you with a deeper insight into the Korean language. Modern Korean now uses slang and shortens words to create a different language that native Korean speakers who are not of my generation understand. Many older generation Koreans express concern over the loss of the original Korean language these days. I sincerely hope Korea will be able to preserve the beauty of Hangul for future generations.
Korean to English translation by Elise, Administrator for Lee Seung Gi Forever
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