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Korean language and computers


Korean language and computers

South Korean standard Dubeolsik (two-set type) layout.

Computers use Hangul to read and write Korean.


  • Character encodings 1
  • Text input 2
  • Hanja 3
  • Special situations 4
  • Programs 5
  • Hangul in Unicode 6
    • Hangul Syllables Area 6.1
      • Initial Jamo 6.1.1
      • Medial Jamo 6.1.2
      • Final Jamo 6.1.3
      • Example 6.1.4
    • Hangul Compatibility Jamo Area 6.2
    • Hangul Jamo Area 6.3
    • Hangul Jamo Extended Areas 6.4
    • Hanyang Private Use Area codes 6.5
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Character encodings

In RFC 1557, a method known as ISO-2022-KR for a 7-bit encoding of Korean characters in email was described.  Where 8 bits are allowed, the EUC-KR encoding is preferred.  These two encodings combine US-ASCII (ISO 646) with the Korean standard KS X 1001:1992[1] (previously named KS C 5601:1987).  In North Korea, a separate character set called KPS 9566 is in use, which is rather similar to KS X 1001.

The international Unicode standard contains special characters for representing the Korean language in the native Hangul phonetic system.  There are two ways supported by Unicode.  The way used by Windows is to have every one of the 11,172 syllable combinations as a code and a pre-formed font character.  The other way is to encode jamos, and to let the software combine them into correct combinations, which is not supported in Windows.  Of course the former way needs more font memory, but gives the possibility of getting better shapes, since it is complicated to create fully correct combinations which may be preferred when creating documents.

There is also the possibility of simply stacking a (sequence of) medial(s) (jungseong) – and then a (sequence of) final(s) (jongseong) and/or a Middle Korean pitch mark, if needed – on top of the (sequence of) initial(s) (choseong), if the font has medial and final jamos with zero-width spacing that are inserted to the left of the cursor or caret, thus appearing in the right place below or to the right of the initial.  If a syllable has a horizontal medial (, , , or ), the initial will probably appear further left in a complete syllable than is the case in pre-formed syllables due to the space that must be reserved for a vertical medial, giving an aesthetically poor appearance to what may be the only way to display Middle Korean Hangul text without resorting to images, romanisation, replacement of obsolete jamo or non-standard encodings.  However, most current fonts do not support this.

The Unicode standard also has attempted to create a unified CJK character set that can represent Chinese (Hanzi) as well as the Japanese (Kanji) and Korean (Hanja) derivatives of this script through the Han unification process, which does not discriminate by language nor region for rendering Chinese characters, as long as the different typographic traditions have not resulted in major differences concerning what the character looks like – see Image:Xin-jiu-zixing.png for examples of characters whose appearance recently underwent only minor changes in Mainland China. Han unification has met with some criticism.

Text input

On a Korean computer keyboard, text is typically entered by simply pushing a key for the appropriate jamo; the operating system creates each composite character on the fly. Depending on the IME and keyboard layout, double consonants can be entered by holding the shift button. When all jamo making up a syllabic block have been entered, the user may initiate a conversion to Hanja or other special characters using a keyboard shortcut or interface button; South Korean keyboards have a separate key for this. Subsequent semi-automated hanja conversion is supported to varying degrees in word processors.

When using a keyboard from another language, most operating systems require the user to type using an original Korean keyboard layout, the most common of which is 2(du)-beolsik. This is in contrast to some other languages like Japanese, where text can be entered using a Romanization system on non-native keyboards.


Apart from the conversion issues mentioned above, some Korean fonts do not include hanja to start with. At the same time, current word processors do not allow the user to specify which font to use as a fallback for any hanja that may occur in a text. In that case, each sequence of hanja must be manually formatted to appear in the desired font.

Special situations

Having text run in vertical lines is poorly or not at all supported by HTML and most word processors, although this is not an issue for modern Korean, as it is usually written horizontally. Until the second half of the 20th century, however, Korean was often written vertically. 15th century texts written in Hangul had pitch marks to the left of syllables, which are included in Unicode, although most current fonts do not adequately support them, either.

See the section on character encodings above for obsolete jamo.


Notable programs specifically designed for Korean language-related use include:

Hangul in Unicode

Hangul letters are detailed in several separate parts of the Unicode specification:

  • Hangul Syllables (AC00-D7A3) which corresponds to (가-힣)
  • Hangul Jamo (1100–11FF)
  • Hangul Compatibility Jamo (3130-318F)
  • Hangul Jamo Extended-A (A960-A97F)
  • Hangul Jamo Extended-B (D7B0-D7FF)

Hangul Syllables Area

To find Hangul Syllables in Unicode, you can apply a simple formula. The formula and tables are as follows:


Initial Jamo

Medial Jamo

Final Jamo


For example, If you want to find the codepoint of “” in Unicode:

  • The value of initial Jamo ㅎ is 18
  • The value of medial Jamo ㅏ is 0
  • The value of final Jamo ㄴ is 4

So, the formula will be {(18×588)+(0×28)+4}+44032, and the result is 54620. It means the Unicode value of 한 is 54620 in decimal, by the numeric character reference, and U+D55C in standard Unicode notation.

Hangul Compatibility Jamo Area

Hangul Compatibility Jamo Area is the part of Unicode which has been allocated for compatibility with the KS X 1001 character set. Usually it is used for representing modern Hangul jamo and some obsolete Hangul Jamo, without distinguishing initial and final.

Hangul Jamo Area

Hangul Jamo Area is the range of Unicode between U+1100–U+11FF. It contains initial jamo, medial jamo and final jamo, including obsolete jamo. Nalgaeset Hangul IME and Un Jamo Batang represent obsolete Hangul using this area.

Hangul Jamo Extended Areas

Hangul Jamo Extended-A and Hangul Jamo Extended-B were added in Unicode 5.2. The areas contain obsolete Hangul jamo.

Hanyang Private Use Area codes

Hangul (word processor) ships with fonts from Hanyang Information and Communication. Their fonts map obsolete Hangul characters to the Private Use Area of Unicode. Despite the use of the Private Use Area instead of dedicated codepoints, Hanyang’s mapping is currently the most popular way to represent obsolete Hangul in South Korea. Since Hangul 2010, Hanyang PUA code was deprecated and replaced with Unicode Syllable-Initial-Peak-Final Encoding Approach system.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b c
  4. ^
  5. ^

External links

  • How To Add and Enable Additional Languages in WindowsMicrosoft Help and Support: (explains how to enable Korean support in Windows)
  • InputKing Online Input System (An online tool for typing Korean)
  • Jamo in Unicode PDF (186 KB)
  • Hangul syllables PDF (3.86 MB)
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