Cia Cia “Little Korea” in Indonesia

There is an ethnic group in Indonesia using Korean alphabet to write their native language. This indigenous people called Cia Cia who lives in a small town in Sorawalio district, Bau-Bau which is located at Buton Island in Southeast Sulawesi.

Cia Cia ethnic group began using Korean alphabet known as “Hangeul” to write their native language since 2009. It all started when Bau-Bau municipality and Seoul municipality agreed to establish cooperation, and made Bau-Bau as a ‘sister city’ of Seoul.


The reason why Cia Cia community decided to adapt Korean alphabet is to save their native language from extinction because the language so far do not have appropriate writing system. It’s Chun Tai-hyun, a professor of Malay and Indonesian linguistics at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies who initially introduced Korean alphabet for Cia Cia language after doing research on the languages of indigenous tribes in Buton Island in 2008.


From the research, Korean alphabet is considered having as the closest similarity in “sound” with a spoken Cia Cia language so the local government decided to use Korean alphabet for Cia Cia language writing system. Professor Chun Tai-hyun and his team, supported by Korean Research Institute ‘Hunminjeonggeum’ and then begun to introduced Hangeul to Cia Cia community through language learning at schools.

Hunminjeonggeum institute also gives scholarship for some local teachers to study Korean in Korea, publishes Korean textbooks and helps preparing instructions for teaching and learning Korean at local schools.

The use of Korean alphabet di Sorawalio, Bau-Bau is now getting widespread. School names, street names nowadays are also written using Hangeul. KBS World ( Korean Broadcasting System) reported that it is the first time Korean alphabet used by an ethnic group outside Korea as a writing system for their native language.




Names of streets and a high school using Korean alphabet

Names of streets and a high school using Korean alphabet

Korean alphabet itself has 24 letters, consist of 10 vowels and 14 consonants. Hangeul was created in 1443 by Sejong the Great—the fourth king of Korea in Joseon Dynasty

The use of Hangeul by Cia Cia community in Bau-Bau has received international media attention. It makes the ethnic group and the city famous and is well-known as a “Little Korea” in Indonesia. [various sources]

* Image credits to and

About the Author

Magdalena Krisnawati

I am Indonesian. I like writing, blogging, taking pictures, and sometimes going to the places where i can ease my mind, get fresh air and new ideas. I am interested in anything about Korea through Korean dramas and its original soundtracks that motivate me to explore Korea and learn Korean language. My blog not only focus on Korea but also how Korea and its hallyu affects many people in my country.