The Korean alphabet used today was invented by a team of scholars commissioned by the Choson king Sejong in 1443. King Sejong was determined to develop a script that could be used by all Koreans. Until that time, Koreans used Chinese ideographs to express their language in writing, sometimes to represent the ideographs' original meaning and sometimes to simply express sounds.
King Sejong's alphabet, known as hangul today, was called hunmin chong'um, literally "proper sounds to instruct the people." It is a remarkably scientific writing system expressed in syllable blocks consisting of a initial, medial and final sound. These three-sound syllable blocks mirror the Korean belief in the combination of the powers of the heavens, earth and man to create the universe. The initial and final consonants signify the heavens and earth, while the medial vowel represents man.