Korean alphabet may be more than 3000 years old, claims scholar

A South Korean scholar has claimed that Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, was in use around 3000 years ago. Previously, it was widely accepted that King Sejong of the Joseon Dynasty in the 15th century invented the set of characters.

Lee Chan-gu does not intend to discredit the work of the King, but instead wishes to prove that Hangeul was created through the restoration of ancient Korean letters rather than imitating other countries’ characters.

“There is a passage in the preface of Hunminjeongeum [Chinese language document published in 1446] that says Hangeul is an imitation of ancient Korean characters, an apparent confession by King Sejong that there had already existed Korean letters used by his forefathers,” he said.

Lee has based his claims on his studies of a 19th century book on ancient Korean currencies. He found an illustration of a knife shaped Chinese metal currency, known as a “pointed tip knife,” which was circulated in China in the middle or latter years of the Spring and Autumn Period (B.C. 770-476), with two Korean characters engraved on it. One of the letters is “don,” meaning money in Korean.