Korean 101

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In ancient times, the languages of the Korean peninsula were written using Chinese characters, using hyangchal or idu. Knowledge of such systems were lost, and the Korean language was not written at all; the aristocracy used Classical Chinese for its writing.

Korean is now mainly written in Hangul, the Korean alphabet, optionally mixing in Hanja to write Sino-Korean words. South Korea still teaches 1800 Hanja characters in its schools, while the North abolished the use of hanja decades ago.

Hangul consists of 24 letters — 14 consonants and 10 vowels that are written in syllabic blocks of two to five components. Unlike the Chinese writing system (including Japanese Kanji), Hangul is not a logographic system.

Modern Korean is written with spaces between words, a feature not found in Chinese and Japanese. Korean punctuation marks are almost identical to Western ones. Traditionally, Korean was written in columns from top to bottom, right to left, but is now usually written in rows from left to right, top to bottom.

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