Language Lifestyle

CALLIGRAPHY: Language Corner! – With Korean From Zero!

Korean Calligraphy in Modern Korea

Korean calligraphy (서예 “seoye”) is the traditional artistic writing of Hangul (the Korean alphabet) and Hanja (Chinese characters historically used in Korea). The essential tools used for traditional calligraphy are a brush, desk pad, paperweight, paper, ink and an inkstone. Even today, it’s easy to buy a basic kit for traditional calligraphy at stationary stores in Korea.

In ancient Korea, as the literacy rate outside of the upper-class was quite low, calligraphy was considered a prestigious hobby reserved for a select few. However, even with its restrictive origin in the past, traditional calligraphy has grown into an integral part of modern Korean society; open to everyone as a form of culture and art. In fact, Korean calligraphy events are commonly held when celebrating Hangul Day (a national holiday honoring the invention of the Hangul writing system which helped transform literacy rates in Korea). During these events, contests, workshops, and exhibitions are held allowing participants to try their hand at calligraphy or to show off the calligraphy skills they’ve already learned!

Moreover, families in Korea often have their own family mottos (가훈 “gahun”) which are written in beautiful calligraphy and framed for display in their homes. These mottos are inspirational phrases used to unify the family around a common set of values, and are often decided by the head of the household. If you’re lucky, when visiting Korea, you may even be able to find a calligraphy artist or booth inside a subway terminal that will write your very own family motto for free!

Examples of family mottos:

근면, 성실, 정직

“Industriousness, Diligence, and Honesty”

끊임없이 배우고 공부하자

“Never Stop Learning and Studying”

존경받는 사람이 되라

“Become a Person Who Deserves Respect”

Now that you’ve learned a little bit about Korean calligraphy, and the important role it plays in modern Korean culture, it’s time to do a little writing of your own! But before you can start working on your calligraphy skills, you first need to learn how to read and write Hangul. In the next section, we’ll teach you the basic rules to get you started!

Hangul Basics

Vowels and Consonants

Hangul characters are “built” using consonant and vowel parts. Using these individual parts over 12,000 characters can be constructed. In this lesson, we will focus on the first five consonants and vowels and how to combine them. Learning these combinations will give you a great foundation on your journey to mastering the Hangul writing system!

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 10.01.14

When creating a hangul character you will always start with a consonant, and then follow it with a vowel. Let’s look at some simple consonant + vowel combinations:

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 10.01.20

Writing Order and Orientation

There are standing (vertical) and lying (horizontal) vowels. Standing vowels always “stand” to the right of the consonant. Lying vowels always “lie” below the consonant.

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 10.01.25


    C = consonant / V = vowel               

Congratulations! You’ve just learned the first 5 Hangul consonant and vowel combinations. It was probably a lot easier than you thought, right? If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more please follow us on Facebook and check out our free book and course at!

KFZ textbook
Article by Sieun Kelly An



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