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The King’s Letters–Origin of Hangul

A historical film about King Sejong who risked everything of his to invent the Hunminjungeum (Korean Script) for his people and the people who weren’t recorded in history.

In the mid-15th century C.E., the king of Korea, Sejong the Great wants to create a simple writing system so the general population can obtain literacy. Up to this point, the Joseon dynastic kingdom has been using Chinese characters.

Sejong calls upon a Buddhist monk, Shinmi, and his fellow monks to develop a new alphabet. The monks have unique insights due to their knowledge of Sanskrit and other languages that use phonetic writing systems. Sejong promises to build a Buddist temple if the monks accomplish the task. Queen Soheon is secretly a Buddhist and welcomes the monks’ to the palace. Due to the tensions between Buddhists and the dominant Confucians, the servants are sworn to secrecy and the monks are disguised as court eunuchs.

The difficult project worsens Sejong’s fragile health, as he suffers from diabetes. He loses sight in his right eye and is urged by his doctors to avoid stress. The king relocates to a health spa in the mountains. In the remote location, he simultaneously receives eye treatments and the monks continue to work in total secrecy. They soon complete the writing system, now known as the Hangul or Chosŏn’gŭl.

The king returns to the palace and contends with the power struggle between Buddhists and Confucians. Both groups want credit for the writing system’s creation within a published manual. The Buddhists expect Sejong to hold up his end of their deal. The Confucians are desperate to keep their power and remain on good terms with China. The king gives in to the Confucians and sends the Buddhist monks away.

In order to reunite the Sejong and Shinmi, the queen starves herself to death. Sejong is grief stricken and decides to fulfill his wife’s final wishes. Shinmi is recalled to the royal palace and there is a reconciliation. The king builds the promised Buddhist temple and Shinmi leads a funeral for the late Queen Soheon.

King Sejong notes he has been king for thirty years and will leave only one book as his legacy. Shinmi replies with an allegory that suggests Sejong’s one book will have an incalculable effect upon Korean society…

Awards: 1 win & 3 nominations

This title is only available in North America

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