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The Theoretical Bases of Using Hanja with Korean and Its Effects

  • Journal of Humanities
  • 2015, (59), pp.317-353
  • Publisher : Institute for Humanities
  • Research Area : Humanities > Other Humanities
  • Received : October 6, 2015
  • Accepted : October 26, 2015

Jeon, Kwang Jin 1

1성균관대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This article is written to offer some theoretical bases for the use of hanja (Chinese letters) along with Korean (or hangeul) in school textbooks. Since the announcement of the 2015 draft curriculums combining liberal arts and science courses by the Ministry of Education on September 24, 2014, there had been heated year-long debates both for and against the use of hanja along with Korean. Although the curriculums were confirmed on September 22, 2015, the original plan for using hanja with Korean in textbooks was postponed until the end of 2016. Under the notion that the boycott against the use of hanja mainly derived from a poor theoretical bassis on this issue, this article aims to offer some explanations on it in three different aspects. First, this study will discuss the starting point of the debate in depth. Many are likely to understand the use of hanja as a matter of using Chinese letters only, which is misleading and lets them miss the true nature of the problem. The new curriculum was planned to select some major Sino-Korean (hanja-eo) referring to a set of words in the Korean language vocabulary that originated from or were influenced by hanja) used in textbooks and write them down in hanja along with Korean. So it is a matter of emphasizing the importance of Sino-Korean words, not the Chinese letters themselves. Second, the importance of elementary school education should be further examined in-depth. Primary school education plays a very important role as the first step for the Korean educational system. Especially the third grade year in elementary schools is a watershed period when “learning to read” shifts to “reading to learn.” Therefore, the ministry’s plan to let the students learn hanja from the third graders is highly meaningful. In this respect, this study will examine the three important meanings of the policy. Third, this study will discuss in depth the correct recognition of the relation between Korean and hanja, and appropriate ways to express our love of Korean as well. The pros and cons opinions of the use of hanja came from a gap in terms of perceiving the relation between these two writing systems. I will try to discuss different opinions of both the advocates and opponents in a more theoretical way. A boycott against hanja does not reflect the real love of Korean. People should show their love of Korean by introducing this writing system to the illiterate people. Misunderstanding of, prejudice against and opposition to the use of hanja in textbooks can be resolved by understanding the three basic ideas mentioned above. In conclusion, there are three advisable ways which we can expect from the use of hanja: 1) a proper hanja education plan that copes with the situation of Korean society; 2) a proper hanja education plan that meets the needs of cultivating creative future leaders; and 3) a low-cost, high-efficient hanja education plan based on the active utilization of Korean dictionary.

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