Alas that the language of minority of rich history and culture is always at risk.
Our Korean language gyeoremal, is not facing its demise yet. However, we have a reason to save our tongue from its perils.
It is getting increasingly polluted to such extent that it is impossible to express our spirit appropriately. The lack of communication caused by the separation of two Koreas has further alienated our tongue by creating discrepancies for same subjects. It is the high time for us to act!
Our language is the blood line of the people and the ultimate expression of ethnic spirit. As long as the community of one Korean language exists, we can continue to thrive long after our generation. The noble mission to reunite our tongue had us meet with each other and launch the joint compilation project.
It is only through the language we succeeded from our ancestors that we can realize who we are and explore how we should live. Hence, to make volume one of Gyeoremal-keunsajeon is far more important than to restore hundreds and thousands of historic buildings in Namdaemun. We can live without those houses, but cannot last without our tongue.
For the purpose of restoring purity and integrity to our tongue, there is no room for argument. To compile a united dictionary is the very beginning of reunifying two Koreas together. I believe we can advocate for the life of our people by cherishing each and every vocabulary.
There was the brief period of shame when we were forced to abandon our speech. How precious did our language become when we finally had taken it back afterwards!! However, the separation of two Koreas meant another ordeal for the Korean language. All these experiences taught us that both Koreas need to cooperate and collaborate to preserve our spirit of language.
I would like to quote an anecdote regarding the heroic effort to save our tongue by ancestors. In the spring of 1947, two years after Korea was liberated from Japanese occupation, Mr. Lee, Geuk Ro, a famous Korean linguist and his colleagues visited the Eulyu publishing company in Seoul. The company was named after Eulyu, the name of the era when Korea was set free.
The manuscript for the first Korean language dictionary, compiled by prominent linguists such as Ju Si-Kyung, Kim Du-Bong, Kwon Deok-Kyu, was previously rejected three times by the publisher, because of the difficulty in acquiring paper supply.
Throwing away thick hardcopies in front of the president of the company, Lee Geuk-Ro burst his outrage. “Who can say that Korea is an independent country if no one gives a damn to print the dictionary of our own? Should I go and plead to Japanese to publish this manuscript?”
His words deeply moved the president, so the publisher finally decided to publish at least the first volume and to come up with a plan for later printing. This is how we could witness the first volume of six-volume “Chosunmal keunsajeon “in the fall of same year.
Another story I would like to share is the sufferings of Joseoneohakhoe, or the Academic Association of Joseoneo in 1942. At the time, the members of compilation committee had to suffer incarceration and in some cases even death in order to protect the manuscripts of Korean language dictionaries.
Each word of our language represents our spirit from past, present and future. It is the vessel to embrace our emotions and search for truth for thousands of years. Then, we can truly get rid of remnants of foreign occupation and reconcile the past of two separated Koreas via our tongue.
At this happy occasion, I wish we could list not only vocabularies but also the sounds of birds, waters and wind of thousands of years in our beautiful land as entry words in the dictionary.
Then, all the words in the Gyeoremal-keunsajeon would become the sound of the life, awaken from the land of logos, filled with spirits of Korea and the world. The peddlers of ancient Korea were known to exchange their clothes when they parted their fellow tradesmen on the road. May that companionship be abundant among us, the members of Joint Compilation Committee!
In order to make it a huge success, all the members of the Joint Compilation Committee will do our best, working on the project day and night. Furthermore, we hope to receive both encouragement and criticism from all the Koreans in both Koreas as well as from overseas.
The Joint Board of South and North Korea
For the Compilation of Gyeoremal-keunsajeon