Change of Power

King Sejong and So Yi working on the alphabet

King Sejong and So Yi working on the alphabet

Tree with Deep Roots is a Korean television drama series about the creation of Hangul. King Sejong, Prince Gwangpyeong, and the Prince’s ladies in waiting have been developing Hangul. The creation and development of a new alphabet will give power to all Koreans by allowing them to read and giving Korea freedom from China.

Hangul has 26 letters, which makes it easier to learn than the thousands of characters used in Kanji. In episode 13 King Sejong has a flashback to an epidemic in a town. The common people are dying and King Sejong posts notices of the cures, but no one is paying attention to it since they cannot read. King Sejong is upset with a man who cannot read and has not spent anytime trying to learn 1000 characters. The lower the status the less time people have to learn. The man tells King Sejong that he works from sunup to sundown and he does not have time to learn Kanji. King Sejong realizes the potential power that 26 letters will have. Instead of having clear class constraints because of education and money, people will have the ability to better their lives once they become literate. Literacy will help the common people gain power.

The rebel group, Hidden Root, is made up of bureaucrats and noblemen who dislike the idea of the alphabet. It threatens their power. They are the owners of slaves and if their slaves can read and write, they will not want to be slaves anymore. Hidden Root does not like scholars either because it challenges their power.  Being able to read and write is a luxury that many could not afford because of time and money. To learn Kanji people had to go to school or have a tutor.

King Sejong’s vision of Hangul goes beyond 26 letters. It is the power to break away from China and to recreate Korean culture. The sound of the alphabet is the voice of Koreans. While Kanji developed over time, Hangul has been created artificially. In episode 9 Sam Moon, a scholar, expresses his dislike of the alphabet. King Sejong explains to the scholars how the letters reflect their sound. King Sejong goes against the teachings of Confucianism in episode 11 when he is present during the dissection of a throat. He is doing thorough research to make sure that the alphabet will be great. Hangul is a recreation of Korean identity and helps Korea break away from imperial China.

Voice is being given to Korea. Hangul is allowing Koreans to have their own voice that will reflect local dialects and speaking patterns. King Sejong is also working on the alphabet to help give So Yi the power to speak. So Yi in the first thirteen episodes only communicates through writing. Speaking is power because writing depends on the knowledge and interpretation of others.

The power flow is changing in Korea because of the creation of Hangul. Common people and slaves will have the ability to read and write. China will no longer be the center of Korean culture. Korea and the people are creating and controlling themselves.

Works Cited

Tree with Deep Roots. SBS. South Korea. 5 Oct. 2011. Television.

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