By Park Si-soo
The Indonesian government has recognized the Korean alphabet as the official writing system of an illiterate Indonesian tribe, a Korean language research institute said Monday.
This is the first case of hangeul becoming an officially acknowledged tool for communications outside Korean territory.
The acknowledgement came nearly one year after the Hunminjeongeum Research Institute began promoting the alphabet or hangeul in Korean to the people, called “Cia-Cia” in August last year under the support of the city of Bau-Bau in Sulawesi, a major island of the Asian country.
Back then, the Cia-Cia tribe was at risk of losing its language as there were no tools available to hand it down to its descendants, researchers said.
Amirul Tamim, Bau-Bau mayor, said in a recent interview with Yonhap News that the central government has approved the use of Hangeul as the tribe’s official alphabet. The central government is mapping out plans to support its use, the mayor added.
The Indonesian government has been reluctant to accept it though reasons for the hesitation are unknown.
Many Korean experts say this approval will give an impetus in promoting the Korean alphabet to other small tribes there grappling with a lack of linguistic tools to hand down their legacies to younger generations.
But some critics are negative about the export of the Korean alphabet, arguing the affected people will see itself further isolated in language and culture from the rest of the country.
According to the institute, since July last year, dozens of children in the tribe have learned how to write, read, and pronounce the Korean alphabet based on a textbook provided by the institute.
Last December, some Cia-Cia children and the Bau-Bau mayor visited Seoul at the invitation of the Korean government.