The Korean alphabet, known as Hangul[lower-alpha 1] in South Korea and Chosŏn'gŭl in North Korea, is the modern official writing system for the Korean language.[2][3][4] The letters for the five basic consonants reflect the shape of the speech organs used to pronounce them, and they are systematically modified to indicate phonetic features; similarly, the vowel letters are systematically modified for related sounds, making Hangul a featural writing system.[5][6][7] It has been described as a "syllabic alphabet", as it combines the features of alphabetic and syllabic writing systems, although it is not necessarily an abugida.[6][8]

Korean alphabet
한글 / 조선글
韓㐎 / 朝鮮㐎
Hangul (Hangeul) / Chosŏn'gŭl
"Chosongeul" (top) and "Hangeul"
Script typeFeatural
CreatorSejong of Joseon
Time period
DirectionHangul is usually written horizontally, from left to right and classically from right to left. It is also written vertically, from top to bottom and from right to left.
Print basis
  • Writing direction (different variants of Hangul):
  • left-to-right, top-to-bottom
  • top-to-bottom, right-to-left
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Hang (286), Hangul (Hangŭl, Hangeul) Jamo (for the jamo subset)
Unicode alias
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

Hangul was created in 1443 CE by King Sejong the Great in an attempt to increase literacy by serving as a complement (or alternative) to the logographic Sino-Korean Hanja, which had been used by Koreans as its primary script to write the Korean language since as early as the Gojoseon period (spanning more than a thousand years and ending around 108 BCE), along with the usage of Classical Chinese.[9][10] As a result, Hangul was initially denounced and disparaged by the Korean educated class. The script became known as eonmun ('vernacular writing', 언문, 諺文) and became the primary Korean script only in the decades after Korea's independence from Japan in the mid-20th century.[11]

Modern Hangul orthography uses 24 basic letters: 14 consonant letters[lower-alpha 2] and 10 vowel letters.[lower-alpha 3] There are also 27 complex letters that are formed by combining the basic letters: 5 tense consonant letters,[lower-alpha 4] 11 complex consonant letters[lower-alpha 5], and 11 complex vowel letters.[lower-alpha 6] Four basic letters in the original alphabet are no longer used: 1 vowel letter[lower-alpha 7] and 3 consonant letters.[lower-alpha 8] Korean letters are written in syllabic blocks with the alphabetic letters arranged in two dimensions. For example, "Hangul" in Korean is written as 한글 (han geul), not ㅎㅏㄴㄱㅡㄹ (h a n g eu l). The syllables begin with a consonant letter, then a vowel letter, and then potentially another consonant letter called a batchim (Korean: 받침). If the syllable begins with a vowel sound, the consonant (ng) acts as a silent placeholder. However, when ㅇ starts a sentence or is placed after a long pause, it marks a glottal stop.

Syllables may begin with basic or tense consonants but not complex ones. The vowel can be basic or complex, and the second consonant can be basic, complex or a limited number of tense consonants. How the syllable is structured depends if the baseline of the vowel symbol is horizontal or vertical. If the baseline is vertical, the first consonant and vowel are written above the second consonant (if present), but all components are written individually from top to bottom in the case of a horizontal baseline.[12]

As in traditional Chinese and Japanese writing, as well as many other texts in East Asia, Korean texts were traditionally written top to bottom, right to left, as is occasionally still the way for stylistic purposes. However, Korean is now typically written from left to right with spaces between words serving as dividers, unlike in Japanese and Chinese.[7] It is the official writing system throughout Korea, both North and South. It is a co-official writing system in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture and Changbai Korean Autonomous County in Jilin Province, China.

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