Korean Royal Code

Gyeongbokgung Palace at night in Seoul, South Korea.

The new crown prince of Korea, tech entrepreneur Andrew Lee, a Korean-American, owes his royal title to a plan to create a free coding school for Koreans, inspired by the story of how his ancestor, King Sejong the Great (1397–1450), profoundly impacted Korea’s history by creating Hangeul, the phonetic writing system for the Korean language, in order to make the population literate.

Last year, a distant relative, King Yi Seok, 77, the nominal emperor of the Joseon dynasty, who promotes tourism and teaches history, nominated Lee as next in line for the crown.

The king, who lives in the South Korean city of Jeonju, chose Lee, co-founder of the popular VPN service Private Internet Access—who was living in California with his wife Nana Lee and their two small children—because of his “positive energy.”

Most South Koreans have forgotten the five-century-old royal dynasty that ended with the Japanese occupation of the peninsula in 1910, but Lee hopes he can use his new position to benefit the population of a country he has only visited four times and whose language he barely speaks. 

He is planning to launch a $100 million fund to help entrepreneurs who want to launch their own businesses, with $10 million of his own as start-up funds. The plan is to give budding entrepreneurs the chance to escape from the traditional career expectations of South Korea’s conservative society.

Lee told the Telegraph that King Sejong the Great was the inspiration for his next venture, an online coding school: “He realized that the only people who could read and write were rich and could afford the time to learn… His solution was to make a super-easy language that everyone could understand. I do think that everyone needs to speak the language of technology because that’s the direction that we’re going in. If you don’t speak technology, then you’re illiterate.”

Lee will teach at the coding school, which will be run online and in “live lecture form,” offering the chance of smaller class sizes where students can ask questions.

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