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This Question Came to My Inbox: “Were all the books written in Hanmoon (Chinese characters) before the Koreans got Hangul (the Korean alphabet)?

Yes, all the books were written in Hanmoon before they invented Hangul. That is why Hangul was invented. You see, all the people in the east used only the Hanmoon, not just the Koreans. In the beginning, there was only one set of these characters, and they were invented by the ancient Koreans. You see, Korea used to spread up out of the Korean Peninsula, up into Manchuria, up into Mongolia. They also spread westward as far as Russia. When Europeans first met the people from the east, they met the Chinese first with Marco Polo. They had no idea of the history of the place, so they assumed the Chinese had always been in charge and everything came from China, but that isn’t true. China just has an expansionist policy. The writing systems developed over time because they had to.

Civilization began in Ur, in the middle east. //Photo by Himesh Mehta on Pexels.com

It will help to give a short history lesson. In ancient times, everyone was in caves except the people in cradle of civilization. Remember that Abraham came from Ur, the cradle of civilization. Egypt also became a power then. That is how a few generations after Abraham, his descendants ended up slaves in Egypt. Before Abraham, not long after the fall of man, there was a great flood. After the great flood, the people had learned quickly in the cradle of civilization. They began building very tall buildings. That is when the tower of Babel was built. The rest of the world at that time were still in caves. When the languages at the tower of Babel were confounded, people went throughout the earth, and one of them went east as far as North Korea.

The bear and the lion both wanted to become human. Probably, the bear and the lion were symbols for wild people. //Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This man from the tower of Babel wanted a wife, but everyone was so uncivilized. There is a very old story in Korea about how he got his wife. The “animals” were wanting to become human, and he gave them tests and training to see who could become human. The old story actually says he put a tiger and a bear in cave and gave them human food. They were supposed to stay in the cave eating human food until they became human. The tiger didn’t like it and left! The bear stayed and ate the human food for a hundred days, and after that time, she came out as a beautiful woman. The man from the tower of Babel married her. They lived way up in the mountains where people couldn’t get to them, for protection from the savagery.

Dangun taught them to grow gardens and built houses. ///Photo by John Lambeth on Pexels.com

The son of the man from the Tower of Babel was called Dangun. Dangun was the first emperor of Korea because he brought the people out of the caves. At that time, Korea was called Gogoryeo and reached from the Korean Peninsula, up into Manchuria, and as far up as Mongolia. It spread as far east as Russia. Dangun had brought the people out of the caves. He taught them to build houses. He taught them to raise gardens and eat like human beings. He built an altar to God outside of a city they built that was the shape of the ark because it saved the people from the flood. He didn’t build the altar inside because they couldn’t make any holes in the city for fear of water. The wells were built outside the city too for the same reason. The city today is called Pyeongyang. It is in North Korea.

Many of these characters tell early Bible stories. //Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

When these early people began creating a written language, they were picture words with meaning, but no pronunciation. If you look at the Chinese characters (Hanmoon or Kanji) today, many of them tell ancient Bible stories, even the story of creation. The people didn’t know about the Bible, but they knew about God and the earliest Bible stories.

Seoul is one of the most ancient cities in the world. It was the capital of Shilla. //Photo by Ethan Brooke on Pexels.com

Gogoreyo lasted for 5,000 years. They shrank because of infighting. The Koreans backed into Manchuria, the Korean Peninsula, and still other parts of China. Korea became three kingdoms, Bekjae, Shilla, and Goreyo. Bekjae’s royal family was at Busan, and part of Bekjae was also still in China across from the peninsula westward. Shilla’s royal family was around Seoul. Seoul and Busan are extremely old cities! Goreyo was in N. Korea and Manchuria. Eventually, all three of these groups united again and called themselves Hangook meaning “one country.” The rest of the world had learned to call them “Korea” because of when the ancient Koreans travelled the Old Silk Road, the trading route from east to west in the ancient world, they people along that route had begun calling them “Korea” as a rendition of Gogoreyo or Goreyo. After the three kingdoms, Korea hid from the rest of the world. They had had enough fighting, and if you went into Korea, you weren’t allowed to leave, and the people living there weren’t allowed to leave. They didn’t want anyone to know where they were. A European sailor had a shipwreck there and wasn’t allowed to leave for many years. He heard the holy men telling the story of the Tower of Babel and was amazed because the Korean people didn’t even know the Bible existed, but they were telling Bible stories. That sailor was eventually allowed to leave. His diary is in a museum in western Europe. I have a copy of it in English called “Hamel’s Diary.”

China had no specific word order or grammar until they came in contact with English speakers. I learned this from a Chinese professor from China who was in Korea, one of my collegues. Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Only the upper classes could read in all three countries, Korea, Japan, and China. They were still using the characters and he Koreans were calling them Hanmoon. The Bekjae people had shared the characters with Japan across the short distance of water down at Busan. It is so close a ferry runs there today. The Chinese were still using the characters, but they had no grammar. They just randomly used the characters any way they wanted until they came in contact with English speakers, and realized they needed a grammar, so took the English grammar and word order, but they still use the post position particles like the Koreans and Japanese have.

King Sejeong is a hero to the Korean people for a good reason.// Photo by James Lucian on Pexels.com

The king of Korea at one point, King Sejeong, was concerned because he wanted his people to read, but only the upper classes could read because all the books were written in Hanmoon, and it took years of study to learn that many Hanmoon. Only the leisure classes could read. A man or woman who had to work hard their whole lives couldn’t read. King Sejeong didn’t want his people illiterate, so he invented Hangul, the Korean alphabet, and today, Korea has 100% literacy because of it. The Koreans are getting away from the Hanmoon and only the scholars know them now. The women didn’t initially get all the education the men did. However, the Queen Um founded a girl’s school to teach girls to read and write, and that girl’s school eventually became Sookmyeong Women’s University in Hyochang Park, in Yongsang, in Seoul, close to the American military base.

Japan borrowed everything, kept everything, and added to it like they always do. People who study Japan call them “the greatest copy cats in the world.” //Photo by Bagus Pangestu on Pexels.com

As for Japan, they were also using those characters and putting their own pronunciation to them. The ladies of the court in Japan wanted to write poetry, so they invented the hiragana, the Japanese alphabet, then the ladies of leisure could write haikus (a type of Japanese poetry) all day. Now a days, in Japan, everyone must know hiragana (the Japanese alphabet), katakana (the Japanese alphabet for foreign words), Romaji (our alphabet with the sounds of a Latin language), and Kanji (the original writing from Gogoreyo) that the Bekjae people shared with them. Japan borrowed everything and kept everything.

The Koreans are in business with Hangul. The population at large feels no need of Hanmoon. Only scholars use it. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Through time, the Japanese Kanji, the characters used in China, and the Hanmoon, have slightly changed and become a little different in each country. However, the people of those three countries can still read the other’s characters. They don’t know the pronunciation, but they know the meaning. Those three countries have shared a lot through the years. The Japanese people are a combination of Chinese and the Ainu people who were originally in Japan with the royal family being part Korean because of the Bekjae people. The Koreans are basically Korean, but have a very little influx from Japan and China both. China has an expansionist policy and speaks several languages, and one of those is Korean. Chinese is not actually a language like American is not actually a language because there are more than 12 languages spoken in China. You can see the Korean influence even over in Bangladesh where they use the Korean grammar. Ancient Korea, Gogoreyo, was huge! If you look at Uzbekistan, they may be speaking Russian at school, but they are Orientals. I have a feeling their language at home is much like Korean because many of them come to Korea, and Koreans go there too. As for Hungary speaking a language like Korean, that is because of the Mongolians who almost conquered Europe at one time, not because of the immense size of ancient Korea. Without King Sejeong inventing Hangul, Korea would not be who they are today. Only the upper classes would be reading instead of everyone because those Hanmoon are difficult and take a lot of time to learn. They were useful in the beginning, and have their use now, but Hangul changed Korea for the better forever.

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