King Sejong the Great

Average annual growth rate over the last 10 years = 9.2%
The first among G-20 member countries 

GDP = $7.42 trillion
The second largest in the world

Military expenditure
The second highest in the world

Expected to become the world’s largest economic power by 2018
- The Economist, British weekly newspaper

Expected to become the world’s largest economic power by 2016
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF)

Became the world’s second largest economic power in 2012

This is a country that is rapidly rising as an economic and military power in the 21st century: China!

Chinese national pride is as great as the size of their country.  

Such pride is deeply rooted in a traditional notion:

“China is the center of the world, and we have the most superior culture.”
Throughout its long history, China has maintained a China-centered worldview.

Today, China’s national and economic power is growing quickly. With its growing power, Sino-centrism is emerging again. 

“Backed up by its strong military and economic power, China is the center of the world in the 21st century!”

To reinforce its political power, China is promoting a new Sino-centrism. Based on Sino-centrism, China is attempting to establish a China-centered world order. China is again pressuring all other nations to follow the China-centered order.

Chinese imperialism is now slowly but surely emerging. Korea neighbors China. What will happen to Korea? Throughout its history, China was ruled by many powerful dynasties. China constantly asked Korea to obey the China-centered world order and culture.

However, Koreans persistently resisted and created their own culture and history. Without a great leader, none of the following Korean achievements would have been possible.

Our own scientific technology
Our own culture
Our own alphabet

His goal was to remove Korea from the China-centered world order.  He established Korea’s own unique culture.

He is the most respected king in Korean history:
King Sejong (1397~1450)

“Our language differs from Chinese …”
- Preface to the Hunmin Jeongeum manuscript

He recognized Joseon as an independent kingdom, apart from China. Against Sino-centrism, he developed Korea’s unique culture, history, and science. Joseon’s time zone is not the same as China’s. At that moment in history, only China had the technology to observe astronomical events and measure time. No other country around China had its own measure of time.

However, time was clearly different between China and Joseon. The China-centered time system had limited benefits to the lives of people in Joseon.

King Sejong felt a need to help people know more exact measures of time.  He invented a water clock and a sundial that were set to measure time in Joseon. People in Joseon finally achieved independence from the China-centered time system.

Thanks to King Sejong, Korea obtained sovereignty over its own time. Joseon’s language differs from Chinese.

In the 15th century, Chinese characters functioned as a universal writing system throughout Asia. However, Joseon’s language was different from Chinese.

Many commoners in Joseon had difficulty expressing their thoughts in writing. King Sejong decided to get out of the China-centered language system. He invented Hangeul, the alphabet for the Korean people.

Thanks to King Sejong, Koreans obtained sovereignty over its language. Koreans became people with their own alphabet. Joseon’s soil is different from Chinese soil. In the 15th century, Joseon’s farmers used a Chinese book titled “Nongsang Jiyao” (Methods for Farming).

During the Joseon Dynasty, agriculture was a primary industry. However, the weather and the natural environment in Joseon were not the same as in China. Joseon needed its own methods for farming. To meet such a need, King Sejong researched methods for farming that reflected Joseon’s natural environment.

He released an agricultural book titled “Nongsa Jikseol” (Straight Talk on Farming). Thanks to King Sejong, Koreans obtained sovereignty over its farming methods. They learned farming methods that were appropriate for Korean soil. The bodies of Joseon people are different from Chinese people.

However, the people of Joseon were not treated differently. Joseon’s doctors used Chinese medical books for diagnoses and treatments. They studied medicine by reading Chinese books. Chinese medicinal ingredients were expensive to import.

Also, the Korean physical constitution was different from the Chinese. So, treatments were not as effective as they could have been. King Sejong felt a need to utilize local ingredients for medicine. He released a pharmaceutical book titled “Hyangyak Jipseongbang” (The Compilation of Native Korean Prescriptions).

Thanks to King Sejong, Koreans obtained sovereignty over their medicine. They created their own medical books that were designed to treat their body. The sky of Joseon is different from the Chinese. Astronomy was used to rule a country. People believed that astronomical phenomena delivered messages from heaven.

At the time, Joseon and many other Asian kingdoms adopted Chinese astronomy. However, Joseon’s geographical location was different from the Chinese. Chinese astronomy was inadequate to observe astronomical events in Joseon. King Sejong felt a need to observe astronomical phenomena from the location of Joseon. He created a calendar called “Chiljeongsan” that was designed to be used in Joseon.

After 500 years, even today’s scientific knowledge can’t find much error in this calendar. It shows accurate observations of the sun, the moon, stars, and other astronomical objects. Thanks to King Sejong, Koreans obtained sovereignty over their astronomy. Koreans were able to see the sky from their own perspective.

Joseon’s music is different from the Chinese. In the 15th century, Chinese music was more highly regarded during Joseon’s national events. Our traditional court music was less regarded than Chinese music.

Joseon’s music was different from Chinese music. Chinese music was inadequate to represent Joseon’s national identity in important national events. King Sejong took this situation seriously. He created Joseon’s own ritual court music, Botaepyeong 11 tunes and Jeongdaeeop 15 tunes.

Thanks to King Sejong, Joseon created its own musical sounds. Joseon’s ritual court music, “Jongmyo Jeryeak” was designated as a world cultural heritage by UNESCO.

Joseon is different from China. King Sejong recognized the differences between the two countries, and removed Korea from the China-centered worldview. He guided his people on a path to a new world. Young Koreans will follow his guidance.

They will begin a new future for Korea.

“In the face of the overwhelming economic and military power of China, Korea is likely to face a serious economic and cultural crisis.”

However, young Koreans do not agree with such a perspective. For its 5000 years of history, Korea had control over China’s influence. Korea has maintained its own unique culture and heritage. Young Koreans will take such challenges as opportunities to develop their country. They will respond to the challenges with the spirit of innovation.

With such young people, Korea will become the most innovative country in the world. About 500 years ago, the China-centered world order was widely accepted throughout Asia. However, King Sejong of Joseon went his own way to create our unique culture against the overwhelming power of China.

King Sejong recognized that Joseon was different from China, and created a new era for Joseon. VANK is looking for young Koreans, who have the courage to take on the challenges of the rapidly-changing world order. With us, you will overcome the challenges with King Sejong’s spirit of innovation.

1% of the world’s population
0.07% of the world’ total land

However, young Koreans do not let size decide the future of their country. Instead, they find opportunities for innovation.

Take on challenges and build a greater Korea!

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