South Korea has another item that’s ready for export. This time it’s not another high-tech marvel but a product of the country’s ancient culture, its own unique writing system known as Hangul, and it’s going to become the alphabet for a tribal grouping in a remote corner of Indonesia.
The Cia-Cia tribe, about 80,000 people, most of them living on Buton Island, has adopted Hangul as the vehicle with which to put their own language into writing. Mayor Amirul Tamim of Bau-Bau, the principal town of Buton, won approval of Hangul from the Indonesian government in order to save the spoken language of the Cia-Cia. “The government has finally allowed the Cia-Cia to use Hangul as its official writing system,” he said.
Hangul has been selected in part because of the relationship between the way people speak and the shape of the letters, originally based on the shape of the mouth in forming words.
Two Korean teachers are inculcating Hangul into classes in elementary schools, and other volunteer teachers are expected. The town of Bau-Bau also plans to train local people to teach Hangul, which consists of 14 consonants and 10 vowels.
Hangul, developed by scholars in the 15th century in Korea at the behest of King Sejong, is the official writing system of both North and South Korea.