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2022-04-11 13:21



April 15, 2022 (Friday) 8:00-10:00 pm (EST)

Via Zoom (a link is provided to the AATK members on 4/11 and 4/14 via email)

If you are interested in this event, you can renew or join the AATK membership here.

Colloquium Committee: Young-mee Yu Cho (Rutgers University), Hi-Sun Kim (Harvard University), and Danielle O. Pyun (The Ohio State University)

Moderator: Danielle O. Pyun (The Ohio State University)

It may not be an exaggeration to say that Hangul, the Korean script, is considered as one of the most brilliant inventions of the Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910). Since the promulgation of Hunminjeongum by King Sejong the Great in 1446, the central court made efforts to introduce and spread the Korean script among the populace by translating Buddhist scriptures, Confucian classics, and poetry written in Classical Chinese into Hangul. As a phonetic alphabet, Hangul was also utilized to teach and learn the sound and meaning of Chinese characters. From the mid to late Chosŏn dynasty, Hangul was distributed to and used by various levels of people, including royal court members, the literati, and the commoners, making the written communication accessible to the wide public as well as facilitating the dissemination of knowledge, information, and opportunities to reach a wider audience.

Today, the spread of Hangul continues in the context of teaching Korean as a foreign language. The very first lesson and introduction to the Korean language at the novice level often begins with the teaching of Hangul, usually including explanation of the historical and linguistic background to its creation by King Sejong. What is less understood and rarely discussed in class is what role Hangul played in everyday life throughout Korean history after its invention. Through Professor Si Nae Park’s discussion of the life and ecology of the Korean written language as it coexisted with Chinese characters, and Professor Sun Joo Kim’s presentation on how various documents written in Hangul reveal untold facets of the culture and society of Chosŏn Korea, this colloquium aims not only to further build on the knowledge of Hangul for language teachers and learners, but also to introduce historical Hangul documents from that period as possible new teaching materials for content-based language teaching.


The Inscriptional Ecology of Pre-Twentieth Century Korea: A Brief Introduction with Examples   

Si Nae Park (Harvard University)

The invention and promulgation of the Korean script (now called Hangul) in the mid-fifteenth century is one of the most celebrated historical events in discussions of Korean language-in-history. However, a focus on it alone does not give us a complete picture of the inscriptional ecology of pre-twentieth century Korea. In this presentation, I illustrate the multifaceted ways in which the Korean language, written and spoken, coexisted with and mediated Literary Sinitic (hanmun) and sinography (hancha) in pre-twentieth century Korea by drawing examples from the pages of books from the Chosŏn period (1392-1910). Using a variety of genres of writing (e.g., moral primers; reading aids for the study of Buddhist sutras, Confucian classics and canonical literary texts; legal and administrative writing; royal edicts; letters; collected pithy sayings; vernacular novels; and tales written in Korean Vernacular Sinitic), my presentation explains the linguistic principles and reading habits behind textual production and ways to select phrases. The presentation sheds light on the life of the Korean language, especially how it accommodated and negotiated with Literary Sinitic as a written medium and how it interacted with both sinography and Hangul, before the early twentieth-century nationalization of the Korean language and script.

Documents Written in the Korean Script (Hangul) in Chosŏn Korea: An Introduction and Analysis

Sun Joo Kim (Harvard University)

Our conventional understanding about the Korean script (now called Hangul) during the Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910) is that Chosŏn Koreans often pejoratively called the Korean script amgŭl or amk’ŭl, meaning literally “women’s script,” as it was mostly women who used it for their written communication, while Literary Sinitic (hanmun) was the medium of writing for almost all official records and literary writings. Recent scholarship, however, reveals that the Korean script was used far more widely beyond the confines of women’s communicative space. The primary aim of this presentation is to survey a wide range of documents written in the Korean script, such as letters, inheritance documents, and petitions, in order to parse out the surprisingly interesting snippets of information we can glean from that period.


About the Presenters (In alphabetical order)

Sun Joo Kim is Harvard-Yenching Professor of Korean History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. She has a broad range of research interests in social and cultural history of Chosŏn Korea (1392–1910) including regional history of the northern part of Korea, popular movements, everyday lives of people, law and society, slavery, and art history. She is also devoted to making underused yet enlightening primary sources available in English through conventional as well as digital publishing. She is author of several books and numerous articles. She is a recipient of various fellowships and grants, most notably American Council of Learned Societies Collaborative Research Fellowship, Korea Foundation Advanced Research Grant, and Social Science Research Council Doctoral Research Fellowship. She was a Professeure invitée (Invited Professor) at École des hautes études en sciences sociales in France and a member of the Association for Asian Studies Northeast Asia Council (NEAC) Distinguished Speakers Bureau.

Si Nae Park is Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. Park studies premodern Korean literature within the larger context of the Sinographic Cosmopolis and the resultant interplays between cosmopolitan Literary Sinitic and the vernacular. She has investigated the inscriptional ecology of Korean literary production, the history of the book and of reading, literary historiography, and the vernacular story genre (yadam). She authored The Korean Vernacular Story: Telling Tales of Contemporary Chosŏn in Sinographic Writing (Columbia University Press, 2020) and co-edited Score One for the Dancing Girl and Other Selections from the Kimun ch’onghwa: A Story Collection from Nineteenth-Century Korea (University of Toronto Press, 2016). Park’s next book project explores the representation of reading, visual and auditory decoding in reading practices, the cultural impact of Literary Sinitic as a heard language in pre-twentieth century Korea, and the rise of vocal reading of vernacular novels in early modern Korea.

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“ Special thanks to Calligrapher Byungchul Park for Hangeul logo calligraphy ”