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Friday, October 30, 2009

Indonesian Government Concerned About Korean Hangul Export

It looks like this attempt by a Korean woman to export the Korean alphabet known as Hangul to other cultures without written alphabets is getting a less then welcoming reception by the Indonesian government:

Now, one South Korean woman, Lee Ki-nam, is determined to wring more recognition from the world with an unusual export: the Korean alphabet. Ms. Lee is using a fortune she made in real estate to try to take the alphabet to places where native peoples lack indigenous written systems to record their languages.

Her project had its first success — and generated headlines — in July, when children from an Indonesian tribe began learning the Korean alphabet, called Hangul. (…………..)

Still, the country’s linguistic ambitions have already raised some concerns, not long after some Muslim countries complained about South Korea’s zeal in trying to spread Christianity.

In Indonesia, where the government is encouraging its 240 million people to learn a “language of unity,” Bahasa Indonesia, for effective communication among a vast array of ethnic groups, Ms. Lee’s project raises delicate issues.

“If this is a kind of hobby, that’s fine,” Nicholas T. Dammen, the Indonesian ambassador to South Korea, said recently, referring to the decision by the Cia-Cia ethnic minority to adopt Hangul. “But they don’t need to import the Hangul characters. They can always write their local languages in the Roman characters” (………)

Although Indonesia’s government has not interfered in the Hangul project, Mr. Dammen said he feared that Baubau’s other tribes might become jealous of the “special treatment” the Koreans were giving the Cia-Cia.

“If others say, ‘Oh, we can also invite Japan, we can invite Russia, we can invite India, we can invite China, even Arabs,’ then things become messy,” he said. [New York Times]