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A Visual Journey through the Universe of the Korean Alphabet

Although located thousands of kilometres apart, Bulgaria and Korea share an important historical feature that stands at the heart of the national identity of the two peoples. Both countries have given the world entirely new alphabets – the Cyrillic alphabet and Hangeul. A number of cultural events in 2020, which marks the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, celebrate these two national cultural treasures. From May 20 to June 13, the exhibition “The Letters of Bulgaria – Alphabet of Europe” presented to the Seoul audience the works of thirty poster artists from different countries and continents, inspired by the Bulgarian letters. The event is the result of the joint efforts of the International Triennial of Stage Poster, the Korea Foundation and the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in the Republic of Korea.

Now the residents and guests of Sofia can enjoy the reciprocal exhibition – “Posters and Letters / Hangeul and Cyrillic”, organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Bulgaria with the cooperation of the International Triennial of Stage Poster and the Korean Association for Brand Design, as well as San Stefano Gallery. This exhibition presents 19 works by authors from all around the world, including Bulgaria and Korea, inspired by the simplicity and elegance of the Hangeul characters.

The National Hangeul Museum in Seoul

Created in 1443 under the orders of King Sejong the Great, the Korean alphabet embodies the deep philosophy and worldview of this far eastern nation, demonstrating respect for heaven, earth and man. It is these values that are embodied in the spelling of the vowels since the horizontal line symbolizes the earth, the vertical one – the upright man, and the dot – the sun in the sky, together entangled into a harmonious whole. While the consonant letters, in turn, practically depict the position of the vocal organs in the pronunciation of the respective sounds.

The National Hangeul Museum in Seoul

The National Hangeul Museum in Seoul is entirely dedicated to the creation and the philosophy behind the Korean alphabet and tells the story of its role in the national history of Korea. Designed to replace the use of Chinese characters, Hangeul has slowly begun to dominate the writing system on the peninsula, and due to this fact it is much easier to learn Korean today, as the 28 characters are a true alphabet in which one character corresponds to one sound, just as in the Cyrillic alphabet. Unlike the logic of depicting words in Chinese, where each sign has a specific meaning. And the first word that foreigners usually learn to write in Hangeul is “people”, from which “life” and “love” are formed – all of which are basic values ​​for the Korean worldview.

The exhibition “Posters and Letters / Hangul and Cyrillic” offers a true visual journey into the universe of the Korean alphabet, awakened by the imagination of talented authors who fill it with soaring heavenly temples, colourful flower spectacles or minimalist games with the simplicity of the letters. While the letters themselves pop up from everywhere in a variety of constellations – scattered on the fan of mysterious ladies, framing the statues of King Sejong the Great or entangled into strings of wordplay.

As noted by the master of the poster, Bozhidar Yonov, founder of the International Triennial of the Stage Poster – Sofia, poster art has an instant effect, grabbing the viewer’s attention with its colourful and rich visual message, so that even one glance is enough to leave vivid impressions. Everyone tempted to immerse themselves in the colourful universe of Hangeul is welcomed to visit the exhibition from October 24 to 29 in the San Stefano Gallery, where all measures for social distance and safety in the situation of COVID – 19 are being followed. And after this period the exhibition will be available online in digital format.

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