Friday, October 22, 2010

Korean Movable Type and Its Effect on Europe

After the Goryeo king formally surrendered to the Mongols in 1270, the printing

of Buddhist texts was a form of summoning spiritual strength for their harsh times. Korea

had already been distinguished for its woodblock printing tradition, but high demand for the

Tripitaka (the Buddhist canon) called for a more efficient way of producing texts. The Koreans

began to experiment with metal movable type because of the shortage of proper hardwoods and

their past experience with bronze coins. Surprisingly, woodblock texts were still produced after

the innovation of movable type because the advantages of woodblock printing for the Korean

language were not as great as for those of the European languages. European alphabets were

well suited for this technique because of the small number of characters that had to be made.

For example, the English alphabet only has twenty six letters in it. Koreans did not see the

advantage for movable type printing, except for mass publishing, because wood blocks could

be stored for later use and Koreans could produce wood blocks as fast as Europeans could set

up their pages of movable type. Therefore, the Korean’ s innovation of movable type, whether

it inspired Johannes Gutenberg or not, greatly advanced the European nations and elevated their

populace to a more literate state.
by Daniel B., Period 8

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