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Korean alphabet promotes African nations to top spots in the PyeongChang 2018 Opening Ceremony IOC/Jason Evans
PyeongChang 2018

Korean alphabet promotes African nations to top spots in the PyeongChang 2018 Opening Ceremony

Competing nations entered PyeongChang’s Olympic Stadium in a new order, thanks to a renowned ancient writing system developed by a legendary Korean king.

Greece, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa. Those were the first countries to emerge at the PyeongChang 2018 Opening Ceremony. That’s because the Korean alphabet, known as Hangeul, starts with a sound similar to a "g" in English, followed by a sound close to an "n". Competing nations always enter after Greece, birthplace of the modern Olympic Games, and then in alphabetical order according to their names in the host nation’s language, which has usually been Roman script.

Flag bearer Akwasi Frimpong of Ghana during the Opening Ceremony Getty Images
An alphabet for everyone

Invented by a Korean king, Sejong the Great, as an alternative to complicated Chinese characters, Hangeul is a 600-year-old writing system used in both the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

It may look like an assortment of circles, lines and squares to non-speakers, but Hangeul is known for its accessibility and scientific approach. That’s in part because it’s phonetic, and some letters are designed to emulate the shape of the speaker’s mouth when pronounced.

"A wise man could learn it in a morning," King Sejong is said to have written. "A stupid man could learn it in 10 days."

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