Linguist Hong Ki Mun

Buried in the Patriotic Martyrs Cemetery in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are the remains of martyrs who performed brilliant feats for national liberation, socialist construction and reunification of the country. One of them is Academician, PhD and Pro. Hong Ki Mun (September 1903—July 1992), who made a contribution to the development of the nation’s linguistics.

Born in September 1903, he was the eldest of five sons of a writer.

Though he was unusually eager to learn, he could not go to school because his family was in a miserable economic situation. So he started to teach linguistics himself.

While learning the fine principles of Hunminjongum one by one, he made a determination to devote his whole life to the study of linguistics by emulating the spirit of the ancestors who created the national alphabet. But it was not an easy job to put his determination into practice. He worked for wages in the daytime and engrossed himself in the study at night. So he slept less than two hours a day.

In spite of his hard life, he could not give up his dream. He published his first paper “Study on Ridu Characters” and wrote a series of articles named “Korean History” and had them published in different newspapers.

But due to the Japanese imperialists’ policy of stamping out the Korean nation during their military occupation (1905-1945), his linguistic studies could not bear any fruit.

In May 1948, three years after Korea’s liberation (August 1945), he came over to the northern half of Korea and became a teacher of Kim Il Sung University, when he was provided with all conditions to engross himself in his linguistic studies.

Eventually, his efforts bore fruit, some of which were the publication of such important papers as “History of Development of Hunminjongum”, “Interpretation of Korea’s Native Songs” and “Study on the History of Korean Language” and the translation of several national classics, including “Taedongyasung” (Vol.1). In addition, he wrote several textbooks on linguistics.

He used to tell his students, “You are responsible for your own study. You should outdo your teachers.”

When he was working as a deputy director of the Academy of Social Sciences, he made a contribution to the complete translation of “Chronicles of the Feudal Joson Dynasty,” a huge collection of historical materials, in a little over ten years instead of the estimated period of 25 to 30 years. He also played a big role in translating the 80 000 Blocks of the Complete Collection of Buddhist Scriptures.

He rendered a great service to the efforts for raising the country’s international prestige and achieving the independent reunification of the nation while working as a vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly and a vice-chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea. For those merits he was awarded the Order of Kim Il Sung, the title of Labour Hero, the National Reunification Prize and many other orders and medals.