Shown above is “A History of the World,” released by Arcturus Publishing in 2015. As highlighted in a red box, the book mistakenly shows Chinese characters as an example of Korean letters. Photo courtesy of VANK

‘A History of the World’ mistakenly explains origin of Korean letters

This is the first of the three-part series about highlighting wrong information about South Korea on foreign websites or books. Korea News Plus works together with Voluntary Agency Network for Korea (VANK) for the series. _ ED.


“A History of the World,” released by Arcturus Publishing in 2015, is a comprehensive text, which covers the stories of the human journey from the pre-history period to the present.

It is regarded as one of the most clearly written history books. But Korean readers have no choice but to knit their brows while going through tales about the country.

The book shows an example of Hangul script, the original Korean alphabet invented in the 15th century. But they are Chinese letters, not Korean ones.

There are worse distortions about Hangul, which King Sejong the Great created to increase the literacy of commoners who struggled to learn complicated classical Chinese letters.

Its basic consonants reflect the shape of the speech organs used to pronounce them, and the vowel letters are systematically modified for related sounds.

But online-based Encyclopedia.com erroneously notes that Hangul letters imitated Chinese characters.

“The Korean alphabet originally consisted of 14 consonants and 10 vowels; since then five consonants and 11 vowels have been added,” the online encyclopedia said.

“Hangul letters are combined into syllables by clustering, in imitation of Chinese characters.”

Observers point out that this could not be further from the truth.

“A History of the World and Encyclopedia.com contain obvious mistakes about Hangul, which should be corrected right away,” VANK founder Park Gi-tae said.

“Many other websites also include problematic explanations about Hangul. We will continue to put forth efforts to help people across the world have accurate information about the Korean characters.”

Short for Voluntary Agency Network for Korea, VANK is a non-governmental outfit designed to promote a positive image of Korea by requesting foreign internet sites or agencies to correct wrong data about the country.

The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at voc200@gmail.com or 82-2-6956-6698.