[KS] Korean typewriters

Ruediger Frank rfrank at koreanstudies.de
Thu Sep 21 02:25:11 EDT 2006

In case someone became so intrigued with the thread on typewriters that he/she wants to 
expand this into a research project, here's some info on North Korean typewriters. We used 
to have one at Humboldt University Berlin in the early 1990s, which stood idle since 
around that time we introduced the DOS-based HWP 1.0

I never used it, but always found it to be an interesting machine, in particular since it 
seems to have been built for communication purposes with a paper tape punch and reader 
attached. The latter was particularly useful, I suppose; once written, a text could be 
reprinted as often as the ink would last. The whole device strongly reminded me of my days 
as a Navy radio operator; I wouldn't be surprised if it contained some kind of Russian 

Now Korean Studies at Humboldt are dead and buried since 2002, but maybe the machine has 
survived. If anyone is interested, I could try to find out its whereabouts.



Michael Robinson schrieb:
> Dave, Frank, Stefan, and all.
> I can't for the life of me understand why I might be nostalgic for 
> Korean typewriters having never learned to use one, I don't even do much 
> Korean keyboarding now when it is convenient.  But I suppose it comes 
> from my early Peace Corps experience in Chonju in 1968-9.  Our secretary 
> at the Ohak yon'guso was a marvel on the machine.  It was pointed out 
> that few reached her skill and speed.  I never knew the standards for 
> speed (what was the equivalent of words per min.?).  When she typed 
> letters and documents the carriage on that big clunker simply flew 
> around in all sorts of counter-intuitive moves....it was so different in 
> sound and sight to the linear flow of typing on an English language 
> machine.  And, Stefan, I'm not nostalgic for typewriters.  I burned out 
> a motor in my small portable Smith Corona typing my dissertation I don't 
> know how many times, and I don't miss tape and overstrikes, rolling the 
> bar for super-sub script and measuring for the bottom margin (my least 
> favorite task).  And I was able to have another motor put into that 
> little machine...Gads they used to fix things.
> Best to all,  Mike R.
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Stefan Ewing" <sa_ewing at hotmail.com>
> To: <koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws>
> Sent: Wednesday, September 20, 2006 1:01 PM
> Subject: Re: [KS] Korean typewriters
>> Thanks to Messrs. Hoffmann and McCann for their replies.
>> Thanks also to one offline correspondent who provided a list of four 
>> different keyboard layouts that appeared on Korean typewriters, all in 
>> addition to the du-beolsik and se-beolsik that are popular today...all 
>> developed to deal in different ways with the challenge of handling 
>> final consonants.  At his suggestion, I'll post a brief summary after 
>> I've sorted through the links he provided me.
>> In reply to Frank, I am not that young--old enough to have gone owned 
>> three manual typewriters and an electric in my life!  But over the 
>> course of the last decade in which I've visited Korea, not once have I 
>> seen a typewriter in anyone's home, much to my disappointment.  (This 
>> problem drew me in initially because one of my first Korean-learning 
>> textbooks used what was clearly typescript for its Han'gu^l sections, 
>> with rather ungraceful syllables because in single-consonant 
>> syllables, there would be a gaping space at the bottom where the final 
>> consonant would normally go.)
>> I've only written in Korean on computers, where of course such 
>> mechanical problems as where to divide syllables or position 
>> consonants are irrelevant, handled as they are by program logic and 
>> modern printers.
>> And David, yes, a virtually unending roll of paper would have been so 
>> wonderful for stream-of-consciousness writing!  A computer works just 
>> fine--and being able to easily fix typos (let alone endlessly reformat 
>> and revise!) is a gift from heaven--but somehow, it will never quite 
>> be the same as the feeling of inked metal on paper.
>> Yours,
>> Stefan Ewing
>> ***
>>> From: Frank Hoffmann <frank at koreaweb.ws>
>>> Big smile ::)
>>> How old are you, Stefan? I am sure you can still buy Korean 
>>> typewriters today as well -- still useful for filling in forms, for 
>>> example.
>>> The input method is exactly the same as you have it now on your 
>>> computer keyboard. There were (and still are) two methods: 2-bôlsik 
>>> and 3-bôlsik. The first one is far more popular.
>>> --> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout#Hangul_.28for_Korean.29
>>> I think if you look at the keyboard images on above website all is 
>>> pretty self-explanatory ... all basically the same as with a standard 
>>> Latin character typewriter -- the Han'gûl characters in the lower 
>>> position take the position of small characters (on Latin character 
>>> typewriter). Of course, a type-written text did not look as elegant 
>>> as it looks today with a computer. When you hit an initial vocal the 
>>> carriage would not move, same as if e.g. adding a French accent on a 
>>> non-French typewriter.
>>> Frank
>> ***
>>> From: David McCann <dmccann at fas.harvard.edu>
>>> The office person in the school where I taught- The Andong 
>>> Agriculture and Forestry High School- had a big typewriter. Looked 
>>> like those old manuals, but big. I tried it, and it had shift keys 
>>> that would move the roller carriage up and even back into position 
>>> for the completion of the combination of letters, syllable by syllable.
>>> I also remember some years later, in 1974, to be precise, sitting 
>>> with some other grad students then in Korea for dissertation 
>>> research, dreaming about the perfect machine. We pictured a 
>>> typewriter with a huge roll of paper so you could just keep going and 
>>> going, when you broke through the logjam of research and out into the 
>>> swift currents of thought. Wishful thinking.
>>> And then, of course, Screens! Computers! Bliss!
>>> David McCann
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