TRON Project Leader's Opinion

Ken Sakamura

The University Museum, The University of Tokyo

Dr. Woong-Keun Lee, a former professor of Seoul National University's Graduate School of Public Administration, received a prize in Korea corresponding to an order of culture in Japan. Among the important things in Dr. Lee's record is putting into electronic media form Chosôn Wangjok Sillok [Royal Chronicles of (the Kingdom of) Chosôn].

Chosôn Wangjok Sillok is the world's largest history work in which historical happenings are recorded as they occurred over 172,000 odd days, 472 years, and 25 reigns from T'aejo up to Ch'ôljong. The amount [of material] is enormous. The Classical Chinese original spans 1,893 volumes, and the number of Chinese characters is said to reach upwards of 53 million characters. Three thousand people were involved in editing it. This is a Korean folk culture treasure house in which everything during the 500 years of (the Kingdom of) Chosôn are printed--customs, systems, society, the economy, nature, science, history, culture, yin/yang, geography, music, religion, ideology, diplomacy, military tactics and strategy, military affairs, special products, etc. It is said to be the primary material for researching Korean studies.

This precious material, which has close to 1,900 volumes in its paper state, was too unwieldy for research, so Dr. Lee made it into electronic media form. However, in order to do that, he needed lots of Chinese characters. Korea at present mainly uses hangul characters, but since the Chosôn Wangjok Sillok is a historical document, it uses lots of Chinese characters. In concrete terms, in addition to the 4,888 characters that are called the KS standard Chinese characters, he added 12,479 characters, and thus together a total of 17,367 characters are used.

In the TRON Project, from early on, we have asserted that not just in Japan, but also in China and Korea a lot of Chinese characters are needed; that Chinese characters clearly exceed the bounds of JIS and Unicode; and that it is necessary to properly handle the Chinese characters of the respective countries, because their roots vary according to the country. Not just in Japan, but also in Korea, which mainly uses hangul, Chinese characters are needed in this manner for a historical document. Moreover, recently in Korea, a movement has arisen to take another look at Chinese characters. At one time, although there was an environment in which Koreans intended to completely do away with the use of Chinese characters, the fact is that the entire country has begun moving again toward Chinese character education.

As a result of these circumstances, it has come about that people in Korea are taking great interest in BTRON. Just in what Dr. Lee has created, 17,367 Chinese characters are used. Even in Korea, where Chinese characters are not used very much, the number of Chinese characters needed is 17,000, which clearly exceeds the number of Chinese characters that can be handled with the personal computer that has become the mainstream at present.

Efforts on the multilingual system that have been proceeding from way back are finally bearing fruit, and it has come about that we expect it to be put into practical use at last. Naturally, if someone would like to add a Japanese explanation to this material called Chosôn Wangjok Sillok that is written with Korean Chinese characters and hangul, a multilingual environment in which an even larger number of Chinese characters are needed will be demanded.

The TRON Project is presently proceeding with joint research in a close relationship with Dr. Lee. I sincerely hope that the multi-kanji supporting, multilingual environment our project provides will also play a role in the cultural and historical research of our neighboring countries.

The above opinion piece by TRON Project Leader Ken Sakamura appeared on page 1 of Vol. 59 of TRONWARE. It was translated and loaded onto this page with the permission of Personal Media Corporation.

Copyright © 1999 Personal Media Corporation

Copyright © 1999 Sakamura Laboratory, University Museum, University of Tokyo