Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea turns a blind eye to all peace overtures made by the Republic of Korea, the United States and other members of the Free World. In response, Chairman Kim continues his development of nuclear weapons and their delivery means which now threaten even to hit the U.S. mainland.
At this juncture, a computer keyboard developer in Seoul, Dr. Cho, Sok-hwan, has come up with a noble idea to defuse the fast-rising tensions on the Korean peninsula. Chairman of the Korea Association of Information Management in Seoul, Dr. Cho wants to get Chairman Kim and the leaders of the ROK interested in the promotion of benefit of both parties—with a newly developed computer keyboard.
"It is to the interest of both sides,” said Dr. Cho at a recent interview with The Korea Post, turning 33 years in age in the New Year and turning out 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications."
Chairman Cho has been persistently pushing forward his plan for the standardization of the Hangeul keyboards for both Koreas for decades.
Excerpts from the interview with Chairman Cho follow:
Question: Would you introduce the history development of Hangeul computer keyboards in Korea?
Answer: Undertaking of Korea’s keyboard standardization dates back to over half a century ago. Tens of millions of computer users worldwide have been able to gain access to the Korean standard keyboard system (KSC 5715) since it was designated as a global standard by the South Korean government in 1982.
Despite the repeated government-level exchange of letters between the Republic of Korea (south) and North Korea, little progress has been made and today such efforts are all but frozen between the two sides.
Quite a long time ago, Dr. Cho signed an agreement on academic exchanges with North Korea with regard to the use of a unified keyboard system in preparation for the national unification of the two divided parts of the country.
The ROK and the NK jointly developed the “Hangyeore Unified Keyboard Layout of Digital Telecommunication Devices.” Hangyeore means “one nation, a homogenous race or one people, etc.” We registered the trademark & technology patents in the Republic of Korea.
The ROK and N. Korea have developed various methods on speaking, letters, and printing. However, different names like “Hangeul” and “Joseon characters” have been adopted on telecom devices, such as telephones, televisions, FAX, computers, and smartphones, primarily due to the advancement of digital information technology. Despite the same Hangeul and Joseon characters on their keyboards, South and North Korea have used different grammars as well as the different order of consonants and vowels for nearly 70 years. The keyboard of digital communication devices should be easy to learn and use. This is embodied in the Humin Jeongeum’s philosophy.
Q: What was the motivating background leading you to become a keyboard specialist?
A: After becoming a member of KATUSA (Korea Army Augmentation to the United States Army) in the 1960s, I first accessed the IBM computer and the digital keyboard. After leaving the army, I continued to take strong interest in the computer. I visited the United States for advanced study with computer in mind. I worked hard to install the Hangeul alphabet on the computer keyboard. Eventually, l became a national computer keyboard specialist, while working hard to unify the computer keyboard layouts of South and North Korea.
Of note, Kong Byung-woo (1906-1995), who developed the “triple-set” typewriter, had a great impact on me. He once invited me to his office and called for me to spearhead the development of triple-set typewriter. Unlike the Hangeul typewriter used by Koreans today, which features a “double-set” keyboard layout, Kong’s typewriter exhibited a “triple-set” layout containing the end consonants in addition to the first consonants and vowels. He earnestly asked for me to commit to the job of developing a unified keyboard standard amid high tensions in the Korean Peninsula. In 1969, the Korean government adopted a double-set keyboard layout after many twists and turns. Since then, the double-style computer keyboard has become a global norm. The National Computer Keyboard Commission was created around that time.
There were several reasons for the adoption of the double-set keyboard layout. In the 1980s, one big problem related to poor printing ability of the triple-set keyboard system. At that time, the printing quality of the triple-set keyboard was very poor. However, now that the printer's performance has significantly improved, printing on triple-set keyboard layout poses few problems. But it will be impossible for large numbers of people to shift to the double-set keyboard system all of sudden. Like in the United States, both double-set and triple-set keyboards can be put to use. Today, the QWERTY keyboard is widely accessed in the United States, but the Dvorak simplified keyboard is also recognized as a standard keyboard.
Q: Could you explain about the unified South-North Korean computer keyboard?
A: In the early 2000s, industrial standardization of the two Koreas was a key issue. The industrial standardization of both Koreas was hard to achieve due to the prolonged division of the peninsula. Thanks to our concerted efforts to reach an agreement with North Korea, however, we came up with the finished product which obtained technology patents in South Korea. It was named “Unified Hangyeore Keyboard.” While we were able to register the technology patent at an earlier time, the patent registration of the word, “Hangyeore” took more time. Eventually, we won a crucial lawsuit, which enabled us to use the word legally.
Although South Korea gains greater access to the operating system (OS) of Microsoft (MS), North Korea adopts Linux like Europe. This is the reason that the unified keyboard was developed by installing both MS and Linux. In response to the market trend, the Google Play Store installed the “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard” app a year ago.
Q: How do you assess the role and future of the unified Hangeul keyboard?
A: After acquiring a Ph.D. in business administration from Yonsei University, I have devoted myself to doing research on the keyboards. I have spent more than 50 years in R&D on keyboards. I became keenly interested in the unified keyboard one year after I was named chairman of Special Computer Keyboard Committee of Korean Agency for Technology Standard in 2004. While traveling to North Korea for academic exchanges, I felt the necessity to create a unified keyboard in the event of national unification. Our Northern partner was “National Reconciliation Council” which was responsible for academic exchanges with South Korea. However, we accessed North Korea via the language information management society of Chinese-Koreans in China since it was difficult to travel to the North very often. It is hoped that the unified keyboard will become a stepping stone of national unification, while it may take time for the keyboard to be accessible in daily life.
Q: How would you like to talk about the historical background of our typewriter and digital keyboard system?
A: There are two experts in regard to Hangeul mechanization (installing Korean alphabet on the invented typewriter keyboard). They are Kong Byung-woo and Kim Dong-hoon. The first thing that President Park Chung-hee has done after creating the national science and technology exhibition in 1969 involved the integration of typewriters. The triple-set keyboard (consonants, vowels, Korean final consonants (bachim) developed by Kong Byung-woo was easy to use, while its characters were unattractive. The five-set keyboard of Kim Dong-hoon (consonants and long & short vowels) was attractive, albeit it was too slow in speed. A four-set keyboard also hit the market. However, the newly developed triple-set keyboard, with the addition of consonants and vowels, was considered more reasonable. Moreover, it was faster than the double-set keyboard that is readily available today.
Eventually, both Kim Dong-hoon and Kong Byung-woo threw in the towel. I had to manage all related issues. I have started collecting Korean typewriters since. I became a high school teacher. I was urged to lead the national computer keyboard special committee by the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards. Soon, I embarked on a 160-million-won research project. As for the mobile Hangeul keyboard, C model developed by Samsung Electronics and N model created by LG Electronics were considered de facto standards in view of the market principles.
In November 2005, we finished basic research on the standardization of a miniature keypad-type layout. In 2007, we produced research reports regarding the keyboard layout for information technology, texts and office systems. We also adopted reports on the keys of the keypad (KS X ISO/IEC 9995-4, KS X ISO/IEC 9995-8).
The history of digital keypad standardization lasting half a century is never short. One obvious fact is that while an effective and scientific layout method is important, it may be difficult to ignore market principles (de facto standards.) As a result, the adoption of multiple standards seemed reasonable.
The announcement that developer Cho Kwan-hyeon would give up all patent rights related to the Cheonjiin keyboard model, which has become a de facto standard, was a watershed in the development of national standards. On this occasion, I sincerely hoped that this model would be in great demand as a global standard for digital keyboard.
Q: Please tell us about China’s “Hangeul Project” and the mobile phone keyboard.
A: It was reported in October last year that the Chinese-Korean information society in China will kick off a standardized keyboard layout project. China’s “Hangeul Project,” which calls for developing the method of Hangeul input on mobile devices including smartphones, has fueled anti-Chinese sentiments in Korea.
This incident reminded me of Joseon Dynasty scholar Choe Man-ri’s movement against Hangeul. Choe was an associate professor in the Hall of Worthies who spoke against the creation of Hangeul (then called Eonmun) together with other Confucian scholars in 1444. He made a submission that year to King Sejong against hangul. Part of the submission reads: “Our dynasty, from our ancestors, has followed the great and complied with the standards of China. Now we are of the same script and the same measure, it is detrimental to conformity to create a new orthography such as Eonmun.”
The history of Hangeul standardization dates back to half a century ago. Today tens of millions of Hangeul computer users access the computer information processing keyboard. This keyboard had already been globally standardized. The sudden reports on China’s “Hangeul Project” have thrown Koreans and the political circles into confusion.