The han'gǔl crisis and language standardization: Clashing orthographic identities and the politics of cultural construction

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Abstract

The first attempt at spelling reform in South Korea took place in the early 1950s as the Korean War (1950-53) drew to a close. The subsequent Han 'gǔl Crisis is often interpreted as an example of the authoritarianism of President Syngman Rhee (Yi Sǔngman), yet the event also represents a clash of generations between the supporters of the Unified Orthography of 1933 and the previous spelling standard. During the han'gǔl simplification debates, the legacies of Chu Sigyǒng (1876-1914) and Pak Sǔngbin (1880-1943) reemerged as their followers continued a contentious linguistic debate that stretched back into the colonial period. The event ended as a victory for the Unified Orthography of 1933, but several ambiguous questions remain for further investigation. Ultimately, behind the claims of "scientific rationalism " in the current han'gǔl spelling are the forgotten memories of linguistic activism and the difficulties in uniting divergent linguistic practices in post-Liberation Korean society.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-31
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Korean Studies
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Mar 1

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orthography
linguistics
politics
language
Korean War
rationalism
event
authoritarianism
follower
liberation
South Korea
president
reform
Society

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)

Cite this

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title = "The han'gǔl crisis and language standardization: Clashing orthographic identities and the politics of cultural construction",
abstract = "The first attempt at spelling reform in South Korea took place in the early 1950s as the Korean War (1950-53) drew to a close. The subsequent Han 'gǔl Crisis is often interpreted as an example of the authoritarianism of President Syngman Rhee (Yi Sǔngman), yet the event also represents a clash of generations between the supporters of the Unified Orthography of 1933 and the previous spelling standard. During the han'gǔl simplification debates, the legacies of Chu Sigyǒng (1876-1914) and Pak Sǔngbin (1880-1943) reemerged as their followers continued a contentious linguistic debate that stretched back into the colonial period. The event ended as a victory for the Unified Orthography of 1933, but several ambiguous questions remain for further investigation. Ultimately, behind the claims of {"}scientific rationalism {"} in the current han'gǔl spelling are the forgotten memories of linguistic activism and the difficulties in uniting divergent linguistic practices in post-Liberation Korean society.",
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