For the first time ever, the Korean alphabet has been adopted as the official script of a small tribe in a foreign country. The Hunminjeongeum Research Institute on Thursday said that the Cia-Cia tribe of Bau-Bau city on Buton Island, located in the southeastern Indonesian province of Sulawesi, has adopted Korean or Hangeul to transcribe its aboriginal language.
The Bau-Bau city government on July 21 distributed textbooks written in Hangeul to about 40 elementary schoolchildren in the Sorawolio district, where the Cia-Cia people are concentrated, and began weekly Hangeul classes.
The tribe has a population of about 60,000. Its own language is in danger of extinction as it has no native writing system.
The Hunminjeongeum Research Institute signed a memorandum of understanding with Bau-Bau city on the propagation of Hangeul in July of last year, and compiled the textbook in Hangeul. The city is planning to use Hangeul alongside the Roman alphabet on road signs and to publish history and folktale books in Hangeul.
Institute chairman Kim Ju-won said, "We have made several attempts to propagate Hangeul among small tribes in the past. But this is the first time we've signed an MOU with a local government in a foreign country and officially published a Hangeul textbook taught to foreign students."
The institute was founded in 2007 to study languages of the world, and to propagate Hangeul among tribes whose native languages are on the brink of extinction due to their lack of writing systems.