[KS] FW: Pro and Con of Restoring Hanja from the Koreanists?.... Mori visited Whitney: Who will the Korean leaders of industry visit?

JooBai Lee jblee6952 at hotmail.com
Fri Jan 9 21:35:57 EST 2004


[First, the US branches of the Korean dailies
are not even reporting on the mandatory testing,
suggesting that the bite may not even reach
the many students in the U.S. if their employment
is processed in the states.]

Related to the recent announcement to make
hanja(chinese character) testing mandatory for 
new employees, one objection to the dicta from 
the management was that they were bypassing 
the pro/con debate process through the Parliament
and hijacking what properly belongs to the
jusrisdiction of the government of Korea.

I guess what is being seen as appropriate is some
hearing process with consultation with specialists
and authorities in the area of language policy
of concern.

And given the very strong feelings about the
Korean language, I would suspect that the
foreign specialists, such as Americans, Russians,
German and French may not be included among the
specialists consulted.  

But is Hanja, Hanja.u, "Chinese" and "Chinese 
Characters" really Native-Korean, or the mother-tongue.  
How truly is it so native-Korean as to be of concern to 
the Koreans only, and such that the views of the
non-Korean specialists would be not of value?

After all, a goodly portion of hanja.u, or the sino-korean 
words, are officially japanese-speak, and viewed as 
"must be thrown out", and that's a goodly portion of 70% 
of the total vocabulary of modern Korean. 
( Even worse, they don't seem to have done the 
necessary work of creating the replacement vocabulary 
for the "must be thrown out")


Question Group 1:

In all honesty, I see the issue at hand as really being 
about "Chinese" and "Chinese-characters", and it is 
really a stretch to say that hanja-u and hanja 
is "Native Korean".  And it occurrs to me that
real specialists on this area(Chinese) are and have been 
the scholars of the West and the scholars and policy 
specialists of China and Japan.  Are the scholars 
and specialists on Chinese and Chinese characters 
being consulted by the Koreans as they have been
consulting on Korean romanization? And they should
certainly not slight the views of the Vietnamese?

Is this indeed the case?  Are there Western
scholars who are involved or have participated 
in the framing of the language policy of Korea over
the last 60 years?  Can anyone provide pointers
in this regard?

Are there any Japanese, Chinese, or Taiwanese
scholars whose views and opinions have been influential
or consulted by the policy body of Korea? What are their

I do have one citation to Professor Omae Kenichi's
advocating that Korea restore hanja.  This was
by the representative of the Five Busicness Associations
that announced the hanja testing news.

Is he highly regarded in the Korean academic circles,
and can anyone give me pointers to his works?


Question Group 2:

I recall, from the writings of Professor Unger, a Japanese 
specialist, that the American military government 
in Japan just after the WWII seriously considered 
urging/forcing the adoption of romanization as the 
official writing system of Japan.  I guess we know what 
happened there.

But, is there also a history of US's involvement in
the language policy of Korea?  Can anybody bring light on
this topic?  Or has the language policy been a <No Touch>
even for the American military government and later?

I guess there have been innumerable travel junkets by the 
educational policy makers of Korea to many governmental 
and educational institutions in the US in an effort to 
coordinate the curriculums in all areas of humanities and 
sciences, with the natural exception of local history and 
language, to the standards and curriculums in the US.

One could without exaggeration say that what is being taught 
and learned in Korea and the US is now pretty much the 
same, except for the language of instruction, and the 
details of the curriculum involving local history and 
local language education. They are definitely in complete 
sync with the US.

And when we look at it from the context of hidden English
in Korean, not so hidden for hanja literates, we can speak 
of terminological equivalence, albeit intermediated by 
sino-korean words.

Are there similar travels to China by the Korean education 
community to emulate the curriculums and teaching methodologies 
of China?  So are there also a move now to synchornize the 
curriculums of Korean schools with that of China? 

I suppose synchronizing history curriculum is definitely out.


I am prompted to ask for the views of the list
by the possible contrast in the approach to the 
foreign-language probem demonstrated by the Japanese 
vis-a-vis the Korean.

I could not help thinking again about the
"Mori's cockamamie ideas" thread.  One list
member noted the official visit to Professor
Whitney at Yale, then and later the powerhouse
of American philological studies, with Prof. Whitney,
one of the superstars of Indo-Germanic philology.

It struck me that it was not at all odd that 
M.O.E. Mori should consult Professor Whitney, then
one of the world authorities on western languages,
about western languages, albeit with a humorous twist.  

I think he was worthy of the tile Minister of
Education, not the abbreviated MOE, precisely
by his act of consulting world authorities on
the important issue of mastering Western languages.

And thinking about the rather holistic views about
language then current in philology, and not the 
current focus on high specialization, I thought 
it was a move worthy of a concerned Minister of 
Education of a country occupied as he was with 
mastering foreign language and concerned about 

But it also struck me that many of the world
authorities on Chinese, Japanese, and Korean are
also American, with depth and breath of knowledge
not deniable by even the native scholars.

Indeed, in the areas of Chinese language studies,
I think it not unfair to say that the American,
Russian, French, and German scholars have been far
more innovative and produced remarkable results,
such as in the area of tone studies and area dialectal
and historical studies. And there can be no loss
to Korea in heeding attention to the learned views
of these specialists.

Surely the problem facing the Koreans, of having to 
learn many foreign languages, is one shared by every 
country that is not a Super Power.  And Korea can surely 
benefit from the experiences and thoughts of the 
scholars and specialists of every non-Super Power 
nations, which should be whatever number of nations
there are less one.

So, may I ask for the Koreanist community's considered view
on the pro and con of chinese character education in Korea?


JooBai Lee



The American editions of Korean dailies have yet made no 
reporting on the hanja testing announcements in Korea.

Does anyone know the why of it not being reported in 
the states?  Are the newspapers/media in general not 
a part of the jaebul system and not member of the 
business associations?

One other note is that while the pro-character faction has 
started to cite the enlightened policy of N.Korea's 
Chinese character education, 3000 characters, more than 
the Japanese, the S.Korean academic reports and press clippings 
all suggest that to the N.Korean escapees living in S.Korea, 
two big hurdles to their adaptation to life in S.Korea is 
their difficulty with hangeulized-English and hanja, which 
many encounter more than the Seoulites as many escapees are often 
provided with housing in the less-expensive provinces and outlying 
regions where chinese character use persist to a higher degree.

Two American analysts described the "SAD" results achieved 
by N.Korea in their effort to teach Chinese characters as:

Does anyone know the details of Chinese character education 
in North Korea?

How will it be different in S.Korea where the stated policy of 
even the leading Chinese character advocacy group is dual 
writing in school only?

Does anhyone know what the pedagogic strategy in the South is?

On my next posting, I will strive for a little rhetoric and 
more hard-nosed data analysis of Korean homonym issue, which 
I hope will be of interest and utility to the aspring 

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