Unlike most languages, the Korean writing system hangul didn’t develop historically, it was invented and constructed by a team of linguists in 1443. Up until then, Korean was written with the Chinese characters called ‘hanja’. Seeing how both languages are very different, writing in Korean was extremely hard, so illiteracy was high and only the upper class was fluent in reading and writing. Sejong the Great commissioned intellectuals and scientists with a new writing system, that was easy to learn.
Instead of using pictures which represent an item, the new system allows for a very logical transcription of phonetics. Hangul consists of 19 consonants and 21 vowel symbols. Each symbol was based on a representation on where the sound is being formed in the mouth. Up to five letters are combined to form a syllable. After the introduction of the new writing system the elite actually felt threatened in their status, since the new written language could be learned within a week.