There are many discussions about whether Korean learners study Hanja or not. In my opinion, Korean learners are encouraged to study Hanja to help them learn Korean better. Hanja (한자, 漢字) is the Korean name for the Chinese characters that are borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation.( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanja).
Chinese influenced the development of many Asian languages including Korean, Japanese or even Vietnamese. Before Hangul was created by King Sejong (1443), Chinese characters were very common and popular in Korea. My Korean teacher said that because Hanja was too difficult to learn, King Sejong decided to create an easier alphabet system which was Hangul so that everybody could easily learn. Therefore, many people argued that why they had to learn Hanja nowadays.
I agreed that Hanja was more difficult to learn than Hangul. However, according to the Standard Korean Dictionary (표준국어대사전) published by the National Institute of the Korean Language, Hanja constitutes approximately 69.1% of the Korean vocabulary. Therefore, Korean learners can benefit from Hanja root words in the same way English learners benefit from Greek or Latin root words.
For example, if we know that the Latin root word “spec-” means “ looking”, we can easily guess the meaning of the following words:
Spectator: a person who is watching an event, especially a sports event
Spectacle : a sight or view that is very impressive to look at
Inspect: to look closely at something/somebody
Introspection: the act of looking into one’s own thoughts and feelings
Circumspect : careful to look at all possibilities before acting; cautious
Retrospective: looking back at past things
Perspective: one way of looking at things
Speculate: to look at and think about something from different points of view
Likewise, if we know the hanja word 發 (발) means “discovering, uncovering”, we can guess these following words and remember them better.
發見 발견 discovery
發明 발명 invention
發展 발전 development
I will give you another example. If we combine the hanja word 敎(교) meaning teaching and 育(육) meaning raising, we can guess that 敎育 (교육) means education and also guess other words that have the same roots.
敎師 교사 teacher
敎室 교실 classroom
敎科書 교과사 textbook
育兒 육아 upbringing of a child
體育 체육 physical education
As you can see, if you learn Hanja, you can benefit many things such as:
1. Being able to guess Korean words easier.
2. Remember Korean vocabularies easier by linking the Hanja root words
3. Expanding Korean vocabularies by combining different Hanja words
4. Lessen the time of learning Korean
I recommend these books for Korean learners to study Hanja if you are interested:
1.Useful chinese characters for learners of korean
This book provides beginner and intermediate lessons that can help you learn the most frequently used Hanja. The structure and the explanation are very easy to understand and follow. There are a lot of exercises that can help you to review the Hanja.
2. Elementary Hanja writing note
This series can help you learn basic Hanja words effectively. You can see a review here