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

Robert Ramsey sr1 at umail.umd.edu
Sun Jan 11 00:51:10 EST 2004

I forward a comment on this topic from J. Marshall Unger of the Ohio State

Mori Arinori wrote a letter to William Dwight Whitney of Yale University
asking his advice on the replacement of the Japanese language with a
simplified form of English.  I explain this incident in my 1996 book
Literacy and Script Reform in Occupation Japan.  I Yonsuku, a Korean-born
Associate Professor at Hitotsubashi University, in her book Kokugo to iu
shiso, agrees with me that criticisms of Mori that fail to take the facts of
his time into full account are unfair.  (I find this especially noteworthy
since later on in her book, she is quite hard on Japanese script reformers.)

Mori believed, as evidently many people still mistakenly believe, that
language is essentially writing:  speech is just an unruly din of competing
dialects to which even the crudest bumpkin freely added his voice.  Only
writing reveals the essential core of speech and gives it form; only writing
affords one the opportunity to choose words with care and edit out vulgarity
and ugliness.  From this standpoint, one could truthfully say, around 1872,
that Japan hardly had a language of its own:  the written discourse of the
wealthy and powerful was conducted in classical Chinese; so-called Japanese
writing was a hopeless mishmash of dialects full of questionable grammar and
diction.  What would be lost by introducing a new, tidy second language to
Japan?  Start everyone off on an equal basis, provide a common language for
the education of all Japanese, and knock down the barrier to communication
between Japan and the strong Anglo-Saxon world---all at a single stroke!

Of course, Whitney, who realized that language is first and foremost speech,
dissuaded Mori from the idea of making a kind of spelling-reformed English
the language of Japan, but Mori's idea was by no means "cockimamy" in the
context of the time it struck him.  It wasn't until the early years of the
20th century that a standard national language for Japan was finally agreed
upon within the Ministry of Education.

The lesson to learn from Mori and the Japanese experience is the one that
Whitney intuitively understood:  language is primarily speech.  Koreans will
always want to use hanja for certain purposes, much as Americans and
Europeans still occasionally make use of Latin words and abbreviations in
certain styles of writing, and even in speech.  But the native heritage of
Korea is far better reflected in han'gul, which is wonderfully well adapted
to the morpho-phonology of the Korean language and can be touch-typed on
computers.  Why burden the country with hanja for everyday purposes as the
Japanese burden themselves with kanji?  Why burden Korea with hanja when the
PRC, Taiwan, and Japan cannot even decide which forms of hanja are the
"proper" ones for international use?  Korea should zoom ahead, bypassing
those who refuse to switch to kana or romanization for ordinary writing, by
taking full advantage of han'gul.  With han'gul and a good romanization
system, a prosperous, someday unified Korea will have no trouble cultivating
future scholars and artists who will keep the hanja tradition alive and
accessible to all those who wish to delve into it.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "JooBai Lee" <jblee6952 at hotmail.com>
To: <Koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
Sent: Friday, January 09, 2004 9:35 PM
Subject: [KS] FW: Pro and Con of Restoring Hanja from the
Koreanists?....Mori visited Whitney: Who will the Korean leaders of industry

> Hi,
> [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
> views?
> 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
> payoff.
> 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?
> Respectfully,
> JooBai Lee
> 1/9/2004
> P.S.
> 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
> Koreanists-in-training.

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list