Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cultural: Korean Language


Korean Language and the Han-geul Alphabe

More than 70 million people living on the Korean Peninsula speak the Korean language. Linguistic and ethnological studies
have classified the Korean language in the Altaic language family, which includes the Turkic, Mongolic and Tungus-Manchu
languages. The Korean alphabet, Han-geul (originally called Hunminjeong-eum), was created in the 15th century by King 
Sejong the Great (1418-1450) working with a select group of scholars. Han-geul, which consists of 10 vowels and 14 con-
sonants, can be combined to form numerous syllabic groupings. It is simple, yet systematic and comprehensive. The value
of Han-geul was officially recognized when the book explaining the alphabet, also titled Hunminjeong-eum (Correct Sounds 
for the Instruction of the People), was registered by UNESCO on the Memory of the World Register in October 1997. In addition,
every year UNESCO awards the King Sejong Prize to individuals and groups who have contributed to the fight against illiteracy.
All Koreans speak and write the same language, a decisive factor in forging their strong national identity.
Korean has several different dialects in addition to the standard used in Seoul. Only the dialect of Jeju Province is so 
different that it is difficult for others to understand.

Korean Food, Hansik

Rice remains the staple food for most Koreans; it is accompanied by soup and various side dishes - mostly seasoned vegetables - stew and meat.
A traditional Korean meal is not complete without kimchi, a mixture of various pickled vege-
tables such as Chinese cabbage, radish, green onion and cucumber. Most kinds of kimchi 
are made spicy with the addition of red chili pepper powder, while others are prepared with-
out red peppers or are soaked in a tasty liquid. However, garlic is always used in kimchi to 
add to its flavor.
In addition to kimchi, doenjang (soybean paste), with its anti-cancer attributes, has attracted the attention of modern-day nutrition-
ists. Koreans used to make doenjang at home by boiling yellow beans, drying them in the shade, soaking them in salty water,
and fermenting them in the sunlight. However, only a few families go through this process these days. The majority buy factory-
made doenjang.
Among meat dishes, seasoned bulgogi (thinly sliced meat, usually beef, seasoned with soy sauce, sugar, garlic and green onion 
and cooked at the table) and galbi (beef or pork ribs, seasoned and cooked in a similar way) are favorites of both Koreans and non-Koreans.
Other popular dishes are bibimbap (a mixture of rice, vegetables, egg and hot pepper paste), doenjangjjigae (bean paste soup),
naengmyeon (buckwheat noodles in cold beef broth) and samgyetang (stewed chicken stuffed with rice and ginseng).

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