In the 15th century, King Sejong the Great personally developed an alphabetic featural writing system known today as Hangul. He felt that Hanja was inadequate to write Korean and that this was the cause of its very restricted use; Hangul was designed to either aid in reading Hanja or replace Hanja entirely. Introduced in the document Hunminjeongeum, it was called eonmun (colloquial script) and quickly spread nationwide to increase literacy in Korea. Hangul was widely used by all the Korean classes, but often treated as amkeul ("script for women") and disregarded by privileged elites, whereas Hanja was regarded as jinseo ("true text"). Consequently, official documents were always written in Hanja during the Joseon era. Since most people couldn't understand Hanja, Korean kings sometimes released public notices entirely written in Hangul as early as the 16th century for all Korean classes, including uneducated peasants and slaves. By the 17th century, the elite class of Yangban exchanged Hangul letters with their slaves, suggesting a high literacy rate of Hangul during the Joseon era.
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