Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

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Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

Postby adventrue » 2008-08-24, 16:41

I am watching the Korean film "Old boy". In it the main character goes around town searching a certain Chinese restaurant. The restaurants' names are always shown in Chinese script. Do Chinese restaurants in Korea all only need to write in Chinese because Koreans can read it anyway?

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Re: Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

Postby Karavinka » 2008-08-24, 23:16

Hanja literacy varies greatly, depending on the individual.
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Re: Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

Postby ILuvEire » 2008-08-25, 3:27

I didn't notice where you were from, but you notice many restaurants have Italian or French names. It makes them sound and look fancy. Rather than say "I had dinner at Madaline's Teahouse" as opposed to "I ate dinner at La Casa da Tè di Madaline."

I don't know though. Most Koreans I know don't know too many Hanja.
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Re: Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

Postby lishaoxuan » 2008-08-30, 2:40

The first thing I saw when I landed at Incheon International Airport was the huge Korean Air hanger with 大韩航空 written on it.
They really should put Hangul there so that people on board don't mistake that they landed in China.

The Hanja usage in South Korea really confuses me.

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Re: Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

Postby Aakheperenre » 2008-08-31, 0:10

lishaoxuan wrote:The first thing I saw when I landed at Incheon International Airport was the huge Korean Air hanger with 大韩航空 written on it.
They really should put Hangul there so that people on board don't mistake that they landed in China

That's not hanja, that's simplified Chinese specifically for Chinese nationals.
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Re: Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

Postby lishaoxuan » 2008-08-31, 4:28

Aakheperenre wrote:That's not hanja, that's simplified Chinese specifically for Chinese nationals.

Well I didn't have traditional characters on my computer yesterday so I typed in simplified form.
The characters were 大韓航空. I think they should have put 대한항공 there to represent something very Korean for people's first impression of Korea.

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Re: Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

Postby kid2kiddo » 2008-10-27, 1:41

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Re: Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

Postby Karavinka » 2009-02-14, 16:00

The usage of the mixed script (Hanja with Hangul) was commonplace during most of the twentieth century. Most books, articles and newspaper employed the mixed script, and in the earliest stages of mixed script writing show a form of language that is alien and not readily comprehensible without previous studies. For example, the opening lines of the "Declaration of Independence of 1919":

吾等(오등)은 玆(자)에 我(아) 朝鮮(조선)의 獨立國(독립국)임과 朝鮮人(조선인)의 自主民(자주민)임을 宣言(선언)하노라. 此(차)로써 世界萬邦(세계 만방)에 告(고)하야 人類平等(인류 평등)의 大義(대의)를 克明(극명)하며, 此(차)로써 子孫萬代(자손만대)에 誥(고)하야 民族自存(민족 자존)의 正權(정권)을 永有(영유)케 하노라.

The "grammatical" words like 吾等(we), 玆(hereby), 我(we/our), 此(this) are remnants of Classical Chinese literary tradition. These fell out of use soon, and while some words like 告(declare) survived somewhat longer but still they fell out. The usage of Hanja became restricted to the words that are Sino-Korean that are not readily replaceable with the native words without damaging idiomaticity, and the Hanja usage continued in this somewhat moderated form. The same text written in 1970s may read as this: (this is not a real text, but my version)

우리는 이에 우리 朝鮮(조선)의 獨立國(독립국)임과 朝鮮人(조선인)의 自主民(자주민)임을 宣言(선언)하노라. 이로서 世界萬邦(세계 만방)에 告(고)하야 人類平等(인류 평등)의 大義(대의)를 克明(극명)하며, 이로서 子孫萬代(자손만대)에 誥(고)하야 民族自存(민족 자존)의 正權(정권)을 永有(영유)케 하노라.

More subsequent changes were made in order to bring the spoken and written language closer. As a result, a large number of Sino-Korean words actually dropped out of usage over time, and the native words were replaced where they sound more natural in the spoken language. A modernised version would be: (again, my version)

우리는 이에 우리 朝鮮(조선)의 獨立國(독립국)임과 朝鮮人(조선인)의 自主民(자주민)임을 宣言(선언)한다. 이로서 世界(세계) 모든 나라에 알려 人類平等(인류평등)의 大義(대의)를 밝게 드러내고, 이로서 後代(후대)에 전하여 民族自存(민족 자존)의 正權(정권)을 永遠(영원)히 갖게 한다.

You would notice a number of words replaced. 萬邦 or 克明 are not commonplace words and hence dropped out, while 人類 or 正權 is and remains. 永有 is archaic, and it has been paraphrased as "영원히 가지다" instead. A text printed in the recent two decades or so may contain this much Hanja, but it wold be exception (such as scholarly texts) rather than norm. Contemporary works may contain no Hanja at all or only occasionally for disambiguation purposes. Sometimes they may include a fair number of them (fairly common in historical novels, for example) but they would all be glossed with Hangul. Referring back to the original post, the signs of the Chinese restaurants are written in Chinese because they're Chinese restaurants and it is an exception rather than a norm. They would generally have Hangul name somewhere (interior, a small print on the sign, menu, etc..) so the Hanja-illiterates can remember their name.

The only field I know to employ an extensive amount of Hanja is - well, not surprisingly - law. There are proponents of Hanja education who claim that a solid knowledge of Hanja helps the students with the understanding of the principles of word formation, but they are not without critics. The extent to which Hanja should be taught (and, should be "known") is a major topic for debate, and I wouldn't claim a position here. The previous claims that the modern readers can't read the classics (both Chinese and Sino-Korean) without the knowledge of Hanja weakened significantly since the blooming translation industry from Sino-Korean/Hanmun to Modern Korean.

For those who are curious about the contents, this is the translation:

We hereby declare the independence of Korea and the soverignty of the Korean people. We hereby announce to the all nations in the World to make the great justice of human equality known, and transmit this to the subsequent generations so they may possess the soverign national polity for the eternity.
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Re: Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

Postby Myeong » 2009-08-04, 18:56

lishaoxuan wrote:
Aakheperenre wrote:That's not hanja, that's simplified Chinese specifically for Chinese nationals.

Well I didn't have traditional characters on my computer yesterday so I typed in simplified form.
The characters were 大韓航空. I think they should have put 대한항공 there to represent something very Korean for people's first impression of Korea.


I'm not trying to look for trouble but weren't chinese characters created by Koreans at first? I read some articles that said so... :mrgreen:
I'm interested in reading the Chinese POV of the story... That will be informative. :)

By the way Karavinka your last post is one of the most interesting ones I've read in here... :D

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Re: Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

Postby IJN_Nagato » 2009-08-12, 11:17

Either that Chinese script means 'Mandarin Chinese' or 'Classic Chinese', or just means 'kanji for mixed script', the answer is 'no'.

Currently most of Korean people don't know much of Kanji.


(maybe that's due to the bad emotion toward Japan, and those many Sino-Korean words from modern-Sino-Japanese, I guess.)
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Re: Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

Postby Karavinka » 2009-08-12, 15:07

IJN_Nagato wrote:Whether that Chinese script means 'Mandarin Chinese' or 'Classic Chinese', or just means 'kanji for mixed script', the answer is 'no'.

Currently most of Korean people don't know much of Kanji.


(maybe that's due to the bad emotion toward Japan, and those many Sino-Korean words from modern-Sino-Japanese, I guess.)


I don't see what it has to do with the anti-Japanese sentiment. Hanja literacy went low as the hangul-only policies significantly reduced the practical benefit of learning hanja. Not a lot of people would associate hanja itself with Japanese.
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Re: Can all Koreans read Chinese script?

Postby Myeong » 2009-08-14, 13:48

IJN_Nagato wrote:(maybe that's due to the bad emotion toward Japan, and those many Sino-Korean words from modern-Sino-Japanese, I guess.)


This makes no sense at all; nobody in Korea think of Japanese when they see Hanja. It's not like the Japanese had anything to do with Korea using hanja, except when the peninsula was invaded and occupied by Japan.
Hanja/Kanji/Hanzi were created in China, but thanks to history, it doesn't belong to China only, but to all the nations in the area. It's certainly not a "Japanese only" thing.
Even if Chinese influence played a lot, Korean scholars were the ones who decided to use Hanja to use their language. Your approach is somewhat Nippo-centric, I guess that can be explained by the fact you live in Japan? :wink:


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