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There are certain individuals throughout history whose great contributions have influenced society and helped improve quality of life. Consider Plato, Einstein, and Darwin. Another such great man is Korea's King Sejong, who reigned during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Sejong did for literacy in Korea what Martin Lurther King did for the Civil Rights Movement in America, resulting in the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize being named in his honor.  If you have ever been to Korea, there is a very high chance that you have seen his face, as he is featured on the 10,000 won bill.   King Sejong was the youngest of three sons of King Taejong, and was therefore not originally intended to be king however fate had a different thing in mind for him.  His oldest brother, the crown price,  was quite a free spirit and was deemed by his father to be unsuitable for the position of king, while the middle brother wished to become a monk.  It was Sejong, who impressed his father with his thirst for knowledge and academic skill. Thanks to his father's great foresight, he went on to become one of the greatest kings in Korean history.

King Sejong is famous for accomplishments in agriculture, literature, as well as science and technology; however he is best remembered as the creator of Hangeul, the Korean alphabet. Sejong found great injustice in the fact that it was mostly Joseon elites who could read and write the hanja (Chinese characters) that were used at that time. This ability to communicate using the written word meant huge power for the upper classes, so when King Sejong decided to create a phonetic alphabet for the masses, he knew he would meet lots of resistence.  It is said that, for this reason, Sejong created the alphabet in secret, with the help of just a few people. The result was hangeul, the alphabet used by all Koreans today.

 





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