May 15, 1397 CE: Birthday of Sejong the Great

May 15, 1397 CE: Birthday of Sejong the Great

On May 15, 1397, the prince who would become King Sejong the Great was born in the Kingdom of Joseon (today, the Koreas).


9 - 12


English Language Arts, Social Studies, World History

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On May 15, 1397, the Korean leader Sejong the Great was born in Jeonju, Joseon—what is today South Korea. Sejong the Great was an important Korean king. He was one of the first kings to hire people based on their skills and knowledge, not their wealth. He worked to make his country wealthy by expanding trade with neighboring kingdoms, including Japan. He also encouraged scientists to develop better ways to study the world, grow crops, and keep people healthier. When Sejong first became king, very few Koreans could read or write. Korean scholars used Chinese characters in their writing, which were difficult for everyday people to learn and understand. Sejong wanted more of his subjects to be literate. He realized that if more Koreans were literate, they could communicate better with each other and become more advanced in science, technology, and the arts. To help more Koreans become literate, Sejong developed hangul, the Korean alphabet. In hangul, small blocks of symbols relate to sounds (syllables) from Korea’s spoken language. Hangul has been called “the most beautiful alphabet in the world.” It is an official written language of North Korea, South Korea, and the Chinese region of Jilin, near the North Korean border.

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National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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