This Tuesday, October 9th, was “한글날,” or Hangeul Day! In celebration, we’re going to talk about the awesomeness of Hangeul and why you should give learning it a try, even if you hadn’t thought about studying Korean!
It Has a Rich History
Hangeul has an amazing backstory.
Way back during the Joseon Dynasty, before Hangeul was created, the Korean language was written using classical Chinese characters. As you can imagine, this isolated knowledge to a select few, almost exclusively those of upper class. Now, aside from the task of learning the absolute plethora of Chinese characters (been there, done that, almost died), it just wasn’t reasonable to have Korean’s sounds represented by a Chinese writing system.
Enter the great King Sejong!
Full disclosure, I kinda stan for King Sejong. He’s pretty awesome. So is his badass statue/museum. Musetu? Stateum? Yeah, let’s go with that.
King Sejong believed that everyone, including commoners, should be able to read and write their own language. He had great concern for the struggles of the common class and their ability to convey them effectively to those of higher status. He created Hangeul as a solution and hoped that people would come to use Hangeul in their everyday lives!
Is that not the best thing you’ve ever heard? Seriously. He worked hard to create an entire writing system just to make sure his citizens were all able to have their voices heard.
I’m not tearing up, YOU are.
It Was Made to be Simple
Now, if you’re going to teach an entire community of people to use a new writing system it can’t be rocket science levels of difficult. I know most things seem simple in comparison to traditional Chinese characters but still. King Sejong really thought this one through. For extra, bonus cool points, each consonant is shaped to represent tongue placement in the mouth when making the sound. When will your faves? Never.
ㅏ ㅐ ㅑ ㅒ ㅓ ㅔ ㅕ ㅖ ㅗ ㅘ ㅙ ㅚ ㅛ ㅜ ㅝ ㅞ ㅟ ㅠ ㅡ ㅢ ㅣ
ㄱ ㄲ ㄴ ㄷ ㄸ ㄹ ㅁ ㅂ ㅃ ㅅ ㅆ ㅇ ㅈ ㅉ ㅊ ㅋ ㅌ ㅍ ㅎ
Looks like a lot but it isn’t!
Instead of putting letters one after the other, they go into ‘syllable blocks’. There’s an awesome explanation of how to do that over at.
For instance, Sarang (love) would be writing with the letters ㅅ ㅏ ㄹ ㅏ ㅇ. Broken down into its two syllables gives you ㅅ ㅏ + ㄹ ㅏ ㅇ. The last step is to put them in the appropriate order and…사랑! Tada!
How easy is that?
If you want to learn more about Hangeul, and Korean in general, you can check out the King Sejong Institute website as well as the National Hangeul Museum website. You can also try out Eggbun. I wrote a review on it a few months back. If you’re in Korea (or will be soon) I highly recommend visiting the Hangeul Museum. I had a great time learning about its history. And I got to play with stuff!
Are you learning Korean? has Hangul been easy or hard for you?
From the very first time I visited Sol’s On Sheridan, I knew immediately it would become one of my favorite places to hang out. The vibe is chill, the music is good, and the food is even better. Sol, the restaurant owner, is the epitome of welcoming. Her laugh is infectious and honestly, it’s not hard to see why people keep coming back.
Sol’s parents have been restaurant owners in Korea for over twenty years. Like a lot of kids who’ve grown up in restaurants, she’s helped out there ever since she was young (10). But initially, Sol never actually saw herself going into the restaurant business. After college, she planned on continuing to graduate school. But that all changed when she came here to the US to visit her brother.
As she traveled around (New York, DC, Chicago) she noticed that there were plenty of Chinese and Japanese restaurants, but hardly any Korean ones. “It made me really sad to see,” she told a friend and I while we chatted after our meal. When Sol got back to Korea she decided to work to save up enough money and open her own place. Although her first restaurant was in Wisconsin, lucky for us she loved Chicago so much during her visit that she decided to set up shop here! Sol’s on Sheridan celebrated its first anniversary this year in April.
Meet the food
We got both the Honey Soy and the Sweet & Spicy Garlic. If you’ve never had Korean Fried Chicken you’re truly missing out. The double frying keeps it juicy on the inside but crispy and delicious on the outside. It’s one of my favorite things to order when I’m out at Korean restaurants.
But nothing compares to Sol’s bingsu.
You can find bingsu (usually patbingsu) at other places around Chicago, but none as good as at Sol’s. Having brought her bingsu machine all the way from Korea, the taste is much more authentic; like snow instead of shaved ice. Right now she offers four flavors: traditional Patbingsu (red bean), Oreo Bingsu, Matcha Bingsu (Green Tea) and Mango Bingsu. Proper bingsu is soft, creamy, and sweet. The perfect summer treat!
A talk with Eunsol
At the end of the night, we got a chance to sit down with Sol and talk a little about running a Korean restaurant in Chicago.
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
Oh, favorite thing? Stews (찌개). Korean stews. I’m really good with stews actually. So this winter we’re gonna do a lot of stews. They’re so good in the winter right?
E.n: I’m disgustingly excited because I love jjigae.
For those who might be new to it, what do you want people to know about Korean food?
You know sometimes when you go to Chinese restaurants, you don’t really wanna try something new. I mean for me, I can’t handle the spices. But Korean food, I think it’s really easy to get into it.
The menu is delicious but also super simple. How did you choose what to put on your menu?
I just wanted to have what I can do good. Some places have really huge menus, but I don’t think they can make everything good because it’s so huge. How do they keep everything fresh and [tasting] right? So I wanted to keep it really simple. I go to [the] grocery every single day. I prep everything every day.
4715 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, IL 60640
Sunday through Tuesday; 5 PM – 9 PM
What to try:
The KFC (Korean fried chicken) is amazing. Sticky sweet and crunchy, it’s hard not to like. Also, try the bingsu. You can go traditional and get the 팥빙수 (read: pat bingsu) complete with delicious red beans. Or maybe get fancy and try the Oreo bingsu!