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Hyuntaek Yim

Hyuntaek Yim

Hyuntaek Yim

E-Mail: yim [at] grako-schrift.fu-berlin.de


Ph.D. Project

"The Notation of Traditional Korean Music: The Relationship between the Korean Writing System and the Jeongganbo Notation System"



The Jeongganbo notation system is the earliest Asian mensural notation with pitch and duration.  It was invented in the middle of the 15th century by Sejong (1397-1450), the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), and used first in the historical musical manuscript Sejongsilrokakbo “The Score of the Royal Annals of Sejong.  After, the contemporary Jeonggan notation was newly systematized in the 1970s by Ki-soo Kim (1917-1986).

Today’s Korean script Hangeul, which consists of 14 basic consonants and 10 basic vowels, originates in the indigenous Korean script Hunminjeongeum “The Proper Sounds for the Instruction of the People.  Hunminjeongeum signifies both the name of the Korean alphabet that was invented in 1443 by King Sejong, and the title of the book that was published in 1446 containing a manual for the use of this alphabet.  In this book, the production principle of the new letters, the explanation of the Initial, Medial and Final Sounds for each word, the letter combinations, and examples of letter usage, are described.

In my dissertation, I study the relationship between the Korean writing system and the Jeongganbo notation system: the various phenomenal rules and properties which characterize the indigenous Korean script Hangeul are reflected in the traditional Korean notation system Jeongganbo.

For example, the production and development principles of the Korean letters are probably related to principles of the geometric signs invented by Ki-soo Kim, which were used in the contemporary Jeonggan notation as musical notes.  And the order in which the strokes are drawn during the writing of Korean letters and the arrangement rules (left to right, top to bottom) of the phonetic signs in a syllable are the model for the notation rules of rhythms in a square in Jeonggan notation.  The vertical method of writing (top to bottom) of the Korean script before the middle of the 20th century and the arrangement rule (right to left) within the columns furthermore influenced the arrangement rule within the columns in the Jeonggan notation.

In the middle of the 20th century, the writing direction of Korean, under the increasing influence of European cultures and the development of the printing press and typewriter, was changed from vertical to horizontal.  It is recently maintained by some Korean musicologists that a new horizontal arrangement of the Jeongganbo notation system would guarantee better readability than the previous vertical arrangement, and furthermore would let the notes be more easily handled and be combined with today’s horizontal method of writing.  Therefore, the question of whether the contemporary Jeongganbo notation system should be changed from being based on the model of today’s vertically oriented writing system to being horizontally oriented is an object of ongoing debate.

The goals of my research are: to trace the processes through which the traditional Korean Jeongganbo notation system changed in relation to the Korean writing system, to work out which direct and indirect influence the Korean writing system had on the Jeongganbo notation system, and to consider whether a reform of the Jeongganbo notation system is possible on the basis of the change in the Korean writing system.


Curriculum Vitae

Since 10/2008 Doctoral Fellow at the DFG Research Training Group “’Notation Iconicity’: On the materiality, perceptibility and operativity of writing” at the Freie Universität Berlin (doctoral adviser: Prof. Dr. Christian Kaden, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
09/2006 – 08/2008 Teaching Assistant, Department of Korean Music, College of Music, Seoul National University
03/2005 – 08/2006 Research Assistant, Department of Korean Music, College of Music, Seoul National University
03/2004 – 08/2007 Master, Department of Korean Music, College of Music, Seoul National University (Major: Composition)
03/1995 – 02/2002 Bachelor, Department of Korean Music, College of Arts, Dan-kook University (Major: Instrument Geomungo)


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