Korean hangul is used for nearly all written communication in both South and North Korea today.
How might the introduction of hangul affect literacy rates?
General Yi reduced Buddhist influence and set up a government based upon Confucian principles.
Despite Chinese influence, Korea preserved its distinct identity. In 1443, King Sejong decided to replace the Chinese system of writing that had never worked well for the Korean language. “The language of this land,” he noted, “is different from China's.” Sejong had experts develop hangul, the Korean phonetic alphabet that uses symbols to represent the sounds of spoken Korean.
Although Confucian scholars and Koreans of the upper classes rejected hangul at the outset, its use quickly spread. Hangul was easier for Koreans to use than the thousands of characters of written Chinese. Its use led to an extremely high literacy rate, or percentage of people who can read and write.
In the 1590s, an ambitious Japanese ruler decided to invade China by way of Korea. Japanese armies landed and for years looted and burned across the peninsula. To stop the invaders at sea, the Korean Admiral Yi Sun-shin used metal-plated “turtle ships” to beat back the invaders at sea. These turtle-shaped ships were the world's first ironclad warships. They had great mobility and firepower and helped Koreans win sea battles.
After six years of devastating war, the Japanese armies finally withdrew from Korea. As they left, however, they carried off many Korean artisans to introduce their skills to Japan.
Why did Korea want to develop its own system of writing?