History of Hangeul keyboard standardization by Chairman Cho, Sok-hwan of KAIM
History of Hangeul keyboard standardization by Chairman Cho, Sok-hwan of KAIM
  • Kim Jung-mi
  • 승인 2017.12.21 16:48
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Development story from the chair of the Hangeul keyboard standard committee

By Cho, Kwan Sun

“There is one person in the Republic of Korea who is able to achieve real national reunification of the Korean peninsula.” A friend of mine recently told me so. It certainly was like a bolt from the blue for me.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un continues to not only give the cold shoulder to the Moon Jae-in regime which has pursued an appeasement policy, but also ignore all appeasement gestures made by President Donald Trump of the United States.
“Regardless of the current political climate, there is someone who has taken a first step to materialize a peaceful national reunification as a result from joint efforts between South and North Koreas,” said the friend.
“Who could be that person?” I asked him.
The person of interest he introduced is Chairman Cho, Sok-hwan of the Korea Association of Information Management (KAIM), who has researched on the standardization and scientific implementation of “a terminal with the Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard”(hereinafter referred to as “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard”)for decades. The Korea Post recently interviewed Chairman Cho to hear about his passion on Hangeul keyboards and his very own special invention on the “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard,” which may contribute to the peaceful national reunification between South and North Koreas. Excerpts from the interview with Chairman Cho are as follows:

Chairman Cho, Sok-hwan of KAIM (right) is interviewed by Publisher Lee Kyung-sik of The Korea Post media.

Question: Could you review the history of Hangeul computer keyboard standardization in South Korea?
The history of our Hangeul computer keyboard standardization dates back to half a century ago. Tens of millions of Hangeul computer users worldwide have been able to gain access to the Korean Standard Hangeul Keyboard (KS C 5715) for computer information processing since it was designated as a global standard by the South Korean government in 1982.
Despite the government-level exchanges between South and North Koreas had remained frozen, I, as Chairman of KAIM as a private organization, signed an agreement on academic exchanges with North Korean researchers about a unified keyboard development project as a preparation of the time Korea is reunified in the future. The keyboard called “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard” that South and North Koreas jointly invented has been already completed and its complete product is ready to be popularized as a standard keyboard for reunified Korea. The “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard” has a registered pertinent trademark and technology patents, and was submitted with a group standard registration application in the South Korea.
We are the only divided country in the world for nearly 70 years. Although South and North Koreas share the same meanings of Huminjeongeum, South and North Koreans respectively called different names like “Hangeul” and “Choseongeul” have been adopted on telecom devices, such as telephones, televisions, FAX, computers, and smartphones. In addition, South and North Koreas have used different grammars as well as the different order of consonants and vowels.
We believe that the keyboard of digital communication terminals for reunified Korea should be easy to learn and use, which is aligned with the Huminjeongeum’s philosophy. Therefore, the same philosophy was applied to the “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard” for “Hangeul” and “Choseongeul” as our ultimate objective.

Q: What motivated you to be a specialist developing the “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard?”
During the time I was working in a US military base in Korea in the 1960s, I first accessed an IBM analog computer and UNIVAC 105, and also had chances to work with an English electric ball typewriter introduced by IBM. From that time on, I remained interested in typewriter keyboard. After dismissed from a US military base, I found a job in Chungsan Girls’ Commercial Specialized High School in Seoul and became a typewriting teacher. Later, I also taught at Sungduck Girls’ Commercial High School. While I was working as a typewriting teacher, I kept looking for a mentor whom I could follow in order to be an expert in the area of typewriting education. Eventually, I could reach Dr. Lawrance W. Erickson who was a professor at UCLA as a world-class expert on typewriting education and an author of well-known book called “20th Century Typewriting.” He directly taught me invaluable knowledge for several years. In fact, I have become the first typewriting teacher in Korea who visited the US and learned advanced typewriting education methods.
I have worked hard to apply Humminjeongeum created and proclaimed by King Sejong the Greatto the “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard.” Inventing the “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard “alongside with North Korean researchers is one of the most meaningful work I, as the Chair of the Korea National Computer Keyboard Expert Committee and an Inter-Korean IT Expert Committee member, have ever done for my country.
Especially, Kong Byung-woo (1906-1995) as a leader of the mechanization of Hangeul, who developed the “Korean alphabet 3 set speeder typewriter” that was widely popularized in the 1960s, had a great impact on me. He once invited me to his house in Samcheongdong on Christmas Eve and told me that he believed that computers being used in a soon-coming information era should adopt the “Korean alphabet 3 set speeder typewriter” keyboard layout for its fast speed. During the visit, he encouraged me, a young typewriting expert, to continued efforts to improve the “Korean alphabet 3 set speeder typewriter” keyboard layout and make the layout a standard. Even now, I clearly remember his earnest request for me to commit to the job of developing a unified keyboard standard amid high tensions in the Korean Peninsula.

Chairman Cho, Sok-hwan of KAIM, is showing the keyboard of the Hangyore Unified Standard Keyboard which he has invented.

The “Korean alphabet 3 set speeder typewriter” keyboard layout Kong developed is arranged with an initial consonant (1 set), a vowel (1 set), and a last consonant (bachim - 1 set). So, it is a reasonable layout in Hangeul to form a syllable in that order. In fact, we can type faster with the “Korean alphabet 3 set speeder typewriter” keyboard layout than the “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” keyboard layout, which Koreans use today. In other words, computers with the “Korean alphabet 3 set speeder typewriter” keyboard layout can handle big data or information much faster than those with the “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” keyboard layout.

In 1969, the South Korean government adopted the “Korean alphabet 4 set standard typewriter” keyboard layout for office use and the “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” keyboard layout for tele type as standards of Hangeul keyboard layout through a Hangeul keyboard standardization project after many twists and turns. In addition, for the development of digital technologies, newly invented keyboard layouts of electric typewriters, word-processors, and computers came out and caused social confusion. In order to remove the confusion caused by different keyboard layouts invented by different companies, the South Korean government adopted the “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” keyboard layout that had been used for tele type since 1969 also as the standard for information processing in 1982. Since then, the “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” computer keyboard layout has become a global norm. The National Computer Keyboard Committee was created around that time.
Although the “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” keyboard layout became a standard for tele type, it was impossible to type a syllable that forms a consonant, a vowel, and a consonant all together while the last consonant (bachim) needed to be typed below the vowel because typefaces of printers were generated with a fixed mechanical wheel. The only choice with the “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” keyboard layout during that time was typing the last consonant (bachim) next to the vowel as an expanded writing style. Some scholars complained the shortcomings of Hangeul writing styles while they blamed King Sejong the Great for this issue. Some Hangeul scholars even suggested to replace the “Korean alphabet 3 set speeder typewriter” writing styles with the “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” writing styles like English writing style in order to make Hangeul mechanization easy. Meanwhile, Wang Computer Company in China developed a dot printer to handle Chinese characters that also could handle a syllable forming a consonant, a vowel, and a consonant all together. Naturally, the suggestion using the “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” with an expanded writing style has been disappeared. At that time, the printing quality of the “Korean alphabet 3 set speeder typewriter” keyboard layout was very poor. However, now that the printer's performance has significantly improved, printing on the “Korean alphabet 3 set speeder typewriter” keyboard layout poses few problems. But it will be impossible for large numbers of people to shift to the “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” keyboard layout all of sudden. Like in the United States, both “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” and “Korean alphabet 3 set speeder typewriter” keyboard layout can be used as standards. Today, the QWERTY keyboard is widely accessed in the United States, but the Dvorak simplified keyboard is also recognized as a standard keyboard.

The smart phone and computer keyboard of the Hangyore Unified Standard Keyboard, which Chairman Cho developed in cooperation with North Korean experts.
A registration of the Republic of Korea patent right to the technology of the terminal of the Hangyore Unified Standard Keyboard and certificate of the Hangyore trade mark.

Q: Could you explain about a terminal with the “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard”?
The exchanges between South and North Koreas were getting improved in the early 2000s. During that time, the industrial standardization of South and North Koreas was a key issue. The industrial standardization of both Koreas was hard to achieve due to the prolonged division of the peninsula. One of the practical problems we faced was using different keyboard layouts in both Koreas. It was very challenging to find a middle ground for both sides but we could reach an agreement with North Korea after making persistent concerted efforts. As a result from joint efforts between South and North Koreas, we have the finished product called “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard.” As I mentioned earlier, the complete product has a registered pertinent trademark and technology patents, and was submitted with a group standard registration application in the South Korea. When we talk about the reunification of South and North Koreas, big abstract ideas or words come to our minds. However, I wanted to do something practical for our country, so I have determined to take a first step being closer to our reunification by developing a small yet useful unified keyboard layout that will impact on everyone when we are reunified. The usage frequencies of “Hangeul” and “Choseongeul” were considered carefully and then the layout of our “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard” was arranged.
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.
The final arrangement of the “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard” was determined by the modified vowel arrangement based on the South Korean standard keyboard and by the modified consonant arrangement based on the North Korean standard keyboard.
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 “Hangyeore Unified Standard 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 “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard”?
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 “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard “one year after I was named chairman of Special Computer Keyboard Committee of Korean Agency for Technology Standard in 2004.

An invitation extended to the Delegation of the Republic of Korea by the National Reconciliation Council of North Korea to attend their conference at Kumgang-san in North Korea.

While traveling to North Korea (Pyongyang, Kaesong, Kumgangsan) and China (Beijing, Shenyang) for academic exchanges during the following years, I felt the necessity to create a unified keyboard in the event of national reunification. 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 “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard “will become a stepping stone of national reunification, while it may take time for the “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard” to be accessible in daily life.

An Underwood typewriter donated to Chosun Christian College by Dr. John T. Underwood.

Q: How would you like to talk about the historical background of Hangeul typewriter and computer keyboard layouts?
As I mentioned earlier, 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. Before the 1960s, Hangeul keyboard layouts invented by these two experts competed each other and it became a social issue that inspired and motivated the South Korean government to take an action for Hanguel keyboard standardization.
The first thing that President Park Chung-hee has done after creating the national science and technology exhibition in 1969 involved unifying the existing typewriters.
The “Korean alphabet 3 setspeeder typewriter” keyboard layout (initialconsonant (1 set), a vowel (1 set), finalconsonant (bachim-1 set)) developed by Kong Byung-woo was easy to use and fast in speed, while its characters were unattractive. The “Korea alphabet 5 set structure typewriter” keyboard layout of Kim Dong-hoon (side consonant (1 set), upper vowel (1 set), long vowel (1 set), short vowel (1 set), final consonant (bachim-1 set)) was attractive, but it was too slow in speed. The shape of the characters typed with a “Korean alphabet 3 setspeeder typewriter” keyboard layout does not look neat but crooked. It looks like different sized clothes hung on a clothesline. However, the “Korean alphabet 3 setspeeder typewriter” keyboard layout not only considered the initial consonants and vowels, but also the final consonants (bachim) so that it boosts a typing speed. In fact, we can type faster with the “Korean alphabet 3 setspeeder typewriter” keyboard layout than the “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” keyboard layout, which Koreans use today.

Eventually, however, the South Korean government chose the “Korean alphabet 4 set standard typewriter” keyboard layout for office use and the “Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter” keyboard layout for tele type as standards of Hangeul keyboard layouts while it abandoned Kong Byung-woo’s“Korean alphabet 3 set speeder typewriter” keyboard layout and Kim Dong-hoon’s“Korean alphabet 5 set structure typewriter” keyboard layout.

As the developments of digital technologies were moving fast, all typewriters in offices were replaced by digital computers, the debating issue on typewriter keyboard layouts was disappeared naturally. However, all of sudden, I realized that I was standing in a different era emphasizing Hangeul informatization instead of Hangeul mechanization and I became a key expert who could manage all the issues related to Hangeul keyboard standardization. In fact, I had been diligently collecting old Hangeul typewriters while I was teaching at a high school because my passion on Hangeul typewriters never got old. Meanwhile, I was nominated to lead the national computer keyboard special committee by the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards. Soon, I could embark a special research project on the “Hangyeore Unified Standard Keyboard” that supported by the South Korean government.

Conference on unified development of national language in information era and language information industry standard

Mobile Hangeul phone keyboard layouts became a hot issue in the media. As what happened to computer keyboard layouts in the 1980s, the layouts produced by major companies naturally became de facto standards because of their dominant positions in the market. The South Korean government wanted us to take a timely action to prevent a social confusion related to the industrialization without the standardization of mobile Hangeul phone keyboard layouts. In November 2005, we finished basic research on the standardization of a miniature keypad-type layout. In August 2006, we wrote a final research report on layouts for entering numeric texts, its review, and future plans of action. In October 2007 and November 2008, 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). As people’s interest increased, a conference on mobile Hangeul phone keyboard layouts was held, Hangul Keyboard Standard Technical Committee was formed, and evaluation indexes were finally complete through brainstorming during several meetings with the technical committee.
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.
Fortunately, while our path for the standardization of Hangeul mobile phone keyboard was not smooth, there was 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. His decision became a breakthrough and meaningful event that drew a line in the history of the development of national standards. On this occasion, I, as the Chair of the Korea National Computer Keyboard Expert Committee, wanted to express my gratitude to him and sincerely hoped that this model would be in great demand as a global standard for digital keyboard because the results of our standardization of Hanguel would soon lead to the global standard and protect our pride owning the Hangul.

American Christian Missionary Mr. Underwood who developed the first Hangeul script (horizontal writing)

Q: Please tell us about China’s “Hangeul Project” and the mobile phone keyboard.
It was reported couple years ago that the Chinese-Korean information society in China would kick off a standardized keyboard layout project. China’s “Hangeul Project,” which called 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 the Great against Hangeul. 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.”

Encouraging remarks by former national assemblyman Kang Sam-jae, concrrently president of daekyung university.

This is a time for us to calmly evaluate our current positions and actions regarding the matter of Hangeul Keyboard Standardization, whether we take the matter too lightly. The Keyboard standardization project for information processing has begun since the typewriter era in the 1950s. Since then, the tele type Korean alphabet 2 set typewriter keyboard layout emphasizing an expanded writing style and the Korean alphabet 4 set standard typewriter keyboard layout for general office use were proclaimed in 1969 as a foundation in the history of Hangeul keyboard standardization. On the other hands, Samsung’s Chunjiin or LG’s Naratgul model became a de facto standard for Hangeul keyboard layouts in mobile phones because of their dominant positions in the market.

International Conference on Multilingual Informatics and Broadcasting Information and Communication (Yeonbyeon University, Yeongil, China, 2012)

Chairman Cho received a medal from President Kim Dae-jung (1999)
Chairman Cho’s certificate received from President Kim Dae-jung(1999)

At the end of the interview with the Korea Post, many names came to my mind, who supported and led me to where I am now. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all of the following people: first, the deceased Dr. Joo Yohan who was an expert committee member of Commemorative Association of King Sejong the Great in Hongneung 60 years ago and a subcommittee member of Kong Byung-woo Hangeul Typewriter Research Center, Dr. Kong Byung-woo, President Lee, Gwan-goo, President, Jang Bong-seon, Professor Kim, sung, and Mr. Lim, Jong Chul: next, the following people who are alive and continue to be my supporters, Dr. Ahn, Soo-Kil (Professor of Seoul National University), President Park, Jong-Kook ( Association of King Sejong the Great), Mr. Kang, Tae-bin(Research Association of Korea Typewriting Education), and Mr. Lee, Yun-on(Kong Byung-woo Hangeul Typewriter Research Center): and also the following people who researched on Hangeul mechanization with me, Dr. Jeong, Soon-jae (Dongju Women's University), Professor Shin, Jae-ki (Gakcheon Gil University), Principal Lee, Won-pyo (Donggu Women's Commercial High School), and Principal Kim, Duk gyeom (Busan Techno High School). I am again deeply grateful to all of you who have helped and encouraged me to earn a Ph.D. in Business Administration from Yonsei University, to become the chairman of the National Computer Keyboard Expert Committee in the National Technology Standards Agency, and to become a Hangeul Mechanization Expert Committee member in the National Hangeul Museum.

Finally, it is my honor to have an opportunity to jointly invent “a terminal with the Hangyeore

Unified Standard Keyboard” with the North Korean scholars while traveling to North Korea’s Pyongyang, Kumgang-san, Kaesong, Nampo, Myohyang-san, and China’s Shenyang and Beijing in 2005 and 2006. Especially, I am deeply grateful to the North Korean scientists who have researched with the love of our country, Korea, and people.

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