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The Korean Language 

Korean 한글 hang:l (조선말chosunmal)


The Koreans are one ethnic family speaking one language.  They share certain distinct physical characteristics which differentiate them from other Asian people including the Chinese and the Japanese, and have a strong cultural identity as one ethnic family.

The Korean language is spoken by more than 65 million people living on the peninsula and its outlying islands as well as 5.5 million Koreans living in other parts of the world.  The fact that all Koreans speak and write the same language has been a crucial factor in their strong national identity.  Modern Korea has several different dialects including the standard one used in Seoul and central areas, but they are similar enough that speakers/listeners do not have trouble understanding each other.

Linguistic and ethnological studies have established that the Korean language belongs to the Ural-Altaic group of Central Asia, which also includes Turkish, Hungarian, Finnish, Mongolian and Japanese.

Korean, like Japanese, also includes a rich vocabulary borrowed from Chinese in the same way many European languages includes a large number of words of Latin and Greek derivation.  Han-gul, the Korean alphabet (originally called Hunmin chong-um) was invented in 1446 by a group of scholars under the patronage of King Sejong, and consists of 10 vowels and 14 consonants which are used to form numerous syllabic groupings.  Han-gul is easy to learn and write, which has greatly contributed to the high literary rate of Koreans.  

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