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(LEAD) Indonesian tribe picks Korean alphabet as official writing system

All Headlines 09:19 August 06, 2009

(ATTN: ADDS details from para 3)

SEOUL, Aug. 6 (Yonhap) -- A minority tribe in Indonesia has chosen to use Hangeul as its official writing system, in the first case of the Korean alphabet being used by a foreign society, a scholars' association here said Thursday.

The tribe in the city of Bauer and Bauer, located in Buton, Southeast Sulawesi, has chosen Hangeul as the official alphabet to transcribe its aboriginal language, according to the Hunminjeongeum Research Institute.

The Indonesian ethnic minority, with a population of 60,000, was on the verge of losing its native language as it lacked a proper writing system, the institute said.

The city of Bauer and Bauer began to teach students the Korean alphabet last month, with lessons based on textbooks created by the Korean institute.

Composed of writing, speaking and reading sections, all texts in the book -- explaining the tribe's history, language and culture -- are written in the Korean script. The book also includes a Korean fairy tale.

The city plans to set up a Korean center next month and to work on spreading the Korean alphabet to other regions by training Korean language teachers.

Linguists here expressed hope that the case will become a stepping stone to spreading and promoting the Korean alphabet globally. The Hunminjeongeum Research Institute has been trying for several years to spread the Korean alphabet to minority tribes across Asia who do not have their own writing system.

"It will be a meaningful case in history if the Indonesian tribe manages to keep its aboriginal language with the help of Hangeul," said Seoul National University professor and member of the institute Kim Joo-won. "In the long run, the spread of Hangeul will also help enhance Korea's economy as it will activate exchanges with societies that use the language."

Prof. Lee Ho-young, who helped create the Korean textbook for the Indonesian tribe, said it was a "historical case" for the Korean alphabet to be used in preserving the traditional language of a foreign society.

"I hope the case will serve as a meaningful opportunity to show off the excellence of Hangeul outside of the country," he said.


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