Friday, March 4, 2011

Stuff Waygooks Like #8 - The Korean Flag (태극기)

The Taegeukgi (태극기) is the national flag of South Korea.  The national flag of a country is sometimes its most recognizable and important symbol and South Korea has both a visually and spiritually attractive flag.

The term "Taegeuk" literally means the "state of chaos that existed before the creation of the sky and the earth".  The red portion of the Taegeuk symbol signifies yang (the positive) and the blue portion signifies yin (the negative).  The yin and yang can be expressed as the moon and sun, or earth and heaven.  Taegeuk is meant to represent a full circle in which yin and yang encounter one another in an unlimited universe and bring balance.

The white background symbolizes the "cleanliness of the people".  In each corner of the flag there is a black trigram.  The four trigrams are Geon (건), Ri (리), Gam (감 ), and Gon (곤 ).  Each represents many different things including the four seasons, the four cardinal directions, the four members of the nuclear family, and more.

In 1876 King Gojong (reign 1864-1907) of the Joseon Dynasty personally designed the flag.  It was then first officially used to represent Korea in 1882 when a royal envoy visiting Japan hung it from the roof of the building where his delegation was staying.

Originally known as the "Joseon Gukgi" (flag of Joseon), the Korean flag was first referred to as the Taegeukgi in the March 1st, 1919 Declaration of Korean Independence signed by 33 national representatives during the Japanese colonial era.  The flag had been banned by the Japanese during the colonial era and the Taegeukgi was used as a symbol of resistance and independence.  Ownership of a flag was punishable by execution if found by the Japanese.

In 1949, the newly established Korean government set clear norms in terms of the size and form which the Taegeukgi must have, standards which continue to apply to this day.  If you like mathematical precision, you will appreciate the dimensions and proportions present in the flag.

The 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup had the effect of forever altering Koreans' perception of the Taegeukgi.  For the first time the Taegeukgi began to be seen as more than a sacred object that should be saluted on national holidays and special occasions.  Adorned on people's faces, t-shirts, towels and sports wear, it effectively became an item people used to express their support for their nation in any and every way.  The Taegeukgi has thus taken on a more intimate role in the daily lives of Koreans since then.


1 comment:

Assma said...

I managed to go though only some of the posts you have here, but I find them very interesting rushessay and informative.

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