Get your head out of your Ballmer. The Korean Hangul alphabet was devised in 1443 ("recently", you say?), and is widely recognized as wonderfully innovative - the forms of the individual "letters" are actually related to phonology (i.e., to the shape of the mouth). You can count on one hand the number of natural writing systems with that feature. Hangul are NOT derived from Chinese characters. (Japanese kana syllables? Those ARE explicitly derived from Chinese characters, should anyone care to know.)
Before Hangul Koreans used hanja (which *is* based on Chinese characters). And while Hangul was commissioned in the 1400's it wasn't until the early 20th century that it became widespread.
Before my current Chinese girlfriend I was dating a Korean woman and both of them are under 30 years old. Both knew the history of hanja and neither explained to me about Hangul. Whenever my Korean girlfriend wrote on my arm she did it in hanja leading me to believe that even fairly recent generations of literate Koreans likely read and write in both hanja and Hangul.