Sample from Chapter 12.

Hancha: Chinese Characters

Chinese characters are called Hancha in Korean, which is written using the same two Chinese characters as are used for Hanzi in Chinese and for Kanji in Japanese. You may well ask, Having read several chapters on Chinese characters in Part I, do we need more chapters on the topic? Well, "no" and then again "yes." No, we do not have to discuss again questions of the origin, evolution, classification, and logographic nature of Chinese characters. Yes, we need two more chapters, because even though Chinese characters used in Korean and Chinese are similar in meanings, they differ sometimes in shapes and always in sound. The use of Chinese characters is in some ways complicated in Korean, which has three kinds of words--native, Sino-Korean, and European--as well as two kinds of scripts--phonetic and logographic. And Koreans, more persistently and heatedly than Chinese and Japanese, debate the use of Hancha.

Today, the proportions of Hancha can vary greatly from text to text, depending on the type of reader, subject matter, author, government policy, and so on. Few Hancha appear in reading materials for young children, or in reading material on light or soft subject matters for adults. Some authors favor mixing Hancha and Han'gul, while others favor using Han'gul only.

Overall the use of Hancha has decreased in the past several decades, as S-K words have been written in Han'gul mainly because of government policies (see the next section). Figure 12-4 shows a survey of Hancha use in the newspaper Chosun Ilbo between 1920 and 1990. The following tendencies emerge: Headlines used more Hancha than body text; for headlines, a political section and a social section used similar amount of Hancha; for body text, however, the political section used far more Hancha than the social section; for both headlines and body text, the use of Hancha declined over the 70 years surveyed, with the turning point occurring around the year 1950; the social section used no Hancha throughout the 70 years, except a few in 1940.

My own cursory survey of one newspaper, Hanguk Daily (6 and 7 May 1994), confirms the current fashion in the use of Hancha. In its editorial, the proportions of Hancha were about 10% in the body of the text but 60% in the headlines. In the same newspaper, a book review column contained only a few Hancha, mostly in the book titles and authors' names. Incidentally, the editorial was written in a vertical direction, while the book review was written in a horizontal direction ("Writing Directions: Vertical vs Horizontal" in chap. 7).

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