K-LEARNING | March.27.2024

Sejong the Great: A Journey into Korean Language and Culture



🎁 Essential Insights into Korean Culture


Whenever we ask Koreans the same question, one person always comes up. There is a figure who has remained in the top 3 of the most respected Koreans for decades. Today, we will introduce King Sejong the Great, hereafter referred to as King Sejong, exactly this person.


Learning a language is not just about learning to speak; it's about expanding one's perspective by understanding the culture associated with that language. It's about broadening our perspective and insight through the culture of other countries that cannot be known with just my native language.


In this content, we aim to learn essential words and related expressions, and cultural aspects about King Sejong, who often appears in Korean conversations, and his representative achievements, such as the creation of Hangeul.


Let's start this content, which introduces six vocabularies related to King Sejong and cultural information related to the vocabulary.



🔍 Essential Vocabulary for Free-Talking Skills: 7 Key Terms


He is considered the 'greatest leader' in Korean history who has left a diverse range of significant achievements.


King Sejong is famous not only for creating Hangeul, which is recognized globally as a scientifically designed script, but also for his notable accomplishments in nearly every field, including agriculture, literature, history, finance, music, law, mathematics, science, engineering, philosophy, economics, military science, and astronomy.


He was a king who managed the nation's internal affairs well, expanded its territory externally, fortified national security, and created a very prosperous era for his people.


King Sejong was the leader who first legalized the concept of ‘maternity leave’ in the world.


① Legalized 100 days of leave for female slaves after childbirth.

② Additional 30 days of leave before childbirth for female slaves.

③ Legalized 30 days of maternity leave for male slaves.



In that era, there was a social hierarchy with the ‘slave system', and ‘slaves’ were the lowest class. 


Despite this, King Sejong was a very considerate leader who also sought to improve the quality of life for these lowest members of society. He conducted the first public opinion survey to change the tax system and devoted efforts to resolving and improving social issues. In modern times, King Sejong's achievements are often compared to contemporary social systems.


Hangeul, the alphabet of modern Korean and Korea's script.


An essential concept that should never be overlooked in learning Hangeul is its old name, 훈민정음(Hun-min-Jeong-eum). The very first name given to Hangeul was 훈민정음.


'훈민' means 'teaching the common people' and '정음' means 'the correct sounds'.


Thus, the name '훈민정음' translates to 'the correct sounds for teaching the people', embodying the original purpose of Hangeul's creation.


However, the term 'correct sounds' here does not solely refer to the sounds of the letters themselves. It also signifies the righteous sounds or voices emanating from the people who use these letters.


In essence, Hangeul was not just created for the convenience of communication but as a script imbued with King Sejong's hope to teach correct values to its users and to enable them to express their rightful voices towards the world.



When discussing the term 애민정신 with Koreans, King Sejong is often the first figure to come up. 



It's as if he was born to love his people. Every moment of King Sejong's reign as a monarch began and ended with his people.




King Sejong believed that to pursue good governance, nurturing outstanding talent and advancing scholarship was paramount. 


Therefore, he transformed 집현전, a library dating back to the Goryeo dynasty, into an academic research institution and appointed scholars.


The most crucial roles of 집현전 included academic discussions and education of the crown prince. Scholars with specialized knowledge helped the king and the crown prince in practicing righteous politics. Additionally, they aided the king in numerous projects. 


In simple terms, they gathered intelligent people to engage in discussions and education for right governance and researched various fields of study to benefit the people.



장영실, recognized for his exceptional skills during the reign of King Sejong's father, King Taejong, served as a royal technician. However, he was still a state-owned slave.



King Sejong, even before becoming king, had taken notice of Jang-yeong-sil's talents. Consequently, under King Sejong's patronage, Jang-yeong-sil developed various technologies and was praised as a person ‘born for science’. Despite opposition from the ruling class to promoting a slave, King Sejong persevered and ultimately elevated Jang-yeong-sil's status.


📺 Must-Watch Drama Related to King Sejong


뿌리깊은 나무(Tree With Deep Roots)

This is a drama that we have watched more than twice. Although it's a fictional story, it allows viewers to imagine how Hangeul was created through challenging circumstances and what kind of person King Sejong might have been.


The drama, set in the Joseon Dynasty during King Sejong's reign, revolves around a series of murders of scholars in 집현전 at Gyeongbokgung Palace, seven days before the announcement of 훈민정음. It's thrilling and entertaining, highly recommended.


See you next content! 


📍 Source of this content: KONOGRAM.com


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