The Korean National Flag
Korea first felt the need for a national flag as it
was preparing to conclude the Korean-American Treaty of Commerce, which
was concluded on May 22 and signed on June 6, 1882. This was during the
19th year of the reign of King Gojong of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-
Though China had been pressing Korea to use a dragon design on its
national flag, Korea rejected this in favor of a blue and red yin-yang
on a white field, a favorite Korean design since ancient times. Thus,
the taegeuk design flag became the temporary national flag. Later Korea
added eight trigrams-combinations of three unbroken and broken bars -
around the taegeuk circle and thereby creating the Taegeukgi, which
served as the national colors for a while.
King Gojong appointed Bak, YoungHyo as his ambassador to Japan in
September 1882. While aboard ship heading for Japan, Bak drew a national
flag with a taegeuk circle but included only four trigrams instead of
eight, and started using the flag on the 25th of that month. On October
3, Park reported this change to King Gojong who formally proclaimed the
Taegeukgi as the national flag on March 6, 1883. For some unknown
reason, however, he did not have formal instructions published at that
time on how to make the flag.
In fact, it wasn't till June 29, 1942,
that the provisional Korean government in exile enacted a law on the
uniform method of making the national flag. The law was promulgated but
as the government was in exile, it was not widely known to Koreans at
home still under Japanese colonial rule.
Following the founding of the Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948, the
government felt that it should codify the method of making the national
flag. This prompted the government to form a special commission in
January 1949 that issued the provision on the national flag on October
15 of that year. Since then, the Republic of Korea has been using the
Taegeukgi as the national flag.
The Taegeukgi embodies the ideals of Koreans who have
pursued development and prosperity under universal principles and truth.
Standard color shades of Taegeukgi, the Korean National Flag are
follows: in the CIE System, the x, y, and Y coordinates for the
x=0.5640, y=0.3194, Y=15.3; for the blue, x=0.1556, y=0.1354,
Y=6.5. Alternatively, in the Munsell System of color Nation, the
corresponds to 6.0R 4.5/14, and the blue to 5.0PB 3.0/12. In the
Pantone Matching System, 186C red and 294C blue are
1) Diameter of circle x 3
2) Diameter of circle x 2
3) Length of flag x 1/2
4) Length of flag x 1/4
5) Diameter of circle x 1/4
6) Diameter of circle x 1/2
7) Diameter of circle x 1/3
8) Diameter of circle x 1/12
9) Diameter of circle x 1/24
10) Right angle(90 degrees)
(Width:Length = 3:2)
Meaning of the Taegeukgi
The white background of the Taegeukgi symbolizes light and purity and
reflects Koreans' traditional affinity for white. A taegeuk circle,
divided equally and in perfect balance with red on top and blue below,
represents the cosmic dual forces of yin(blue) and yang(red). It
symbolizes universal harmony in which the positive and the negative or
the active and the passive form a whole.
trigrams that surround the taegeuk circle in the four corners denote the
process of yin and yang going through a spiral of change and growth. The
three unbroken bars in the upper left-hand corner denote
geon( heaven - justice), the three
broken bars in the lower right-hand corner denote gon(
earth - fertility), the two broken bars with one unbroken bar in the
middle in the upper right-hand corner denote gam(
water - life), and the two unbroken bars with a broken bar in the middle
in the lower left-hand corner denote
fire - wisdom). Collectively the Taegeukgi represents universal harmony
Thus, the Taegeukgi embodies the ideals of Koreans who have pursued
development and prosperity under universal principles and truth and
circumscribes the country's tasks of unifying the people and working for
world peace and prosperity.
Manner to the Flag
Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag
" Before this proud Taegeukgi, I firmly pledge my loyalty and will
devote my body and soul to the eternal glory of my country and people.
When and How to Fly the Flag
Days on which the Flag is flown
January 1 - New Year's Day
March 1 - Independence Movement Day (Anniversary
March 1, 1919, Independence movement)
July 17 - Constitution Day
August 15 - Liberation Day
October 1 - Armed Forces Day
October 3 - National Foundation Day
October 9 - Hangeul Day
(The anniversary of the promulgation of the Korean alphabet in 1446)
Other days the government designates as national
The flag may be flown on days local autonomous
governments or provincial or city councils designate as local
The flag is flown at half-mast as a sign of
mourning on Memorial Day (June 6), during periods of national
mourning, and for state or public funerals.
Places Where the Flag is Flown All Year Round
It is obligatory to fly the flag every day at
national and local government offices, public organizations,
schools, and military installations.
It is recommended that the flag be flown at
places where international events are held such as hotels, large
buildings, and parks where large crowds assemble, along walls of
government buildings and anywhere flag polls are installed.
Private homes and other places may display the
national flag all year round if the residents so wish.
Raising and Lowering the Flag
The flag may be flown 24 hours a day, but if
flown at night, it must be illuminated.
Schools and military units are required to fly
the flag only during daylight hours.
The flag should not be flown if there is any
possibility that it might be torn or damaged by wind or rain.
How to Fly the Flag
On national holidays and
it should be flown at full-mast.
On days of mourning,
it should be flown at half-mast.
When the flag is flown in a line with other flags in three or
in other odd numbers, it is placed in the center.
When the number of flags is even, the flag is flown
on the left end as viewed from the front.
* When the flag is flown in Korea together with the
U.N. flag and flags of other countries, they should be flown in the
following order: the U.N. flag, the Korean flag and flags of other
countries in alphabet order.
Order of Raising or Lowering the Flag
When the flag is flown along with other flags, it
should either be raised first or simultaneously with the others.
When the flag is lowered with other flags, it
should either be lowered last or simultaneously with the others.
Safekeeping and Care of the National Flag
The flag must be folded with great care and
stored in a flag box or other container for safekeeping.
Additionally, the box or container must be stored in plain sight and
be easily accessible.
If the flag is dirtied or wrinkled, it may be
washed and ironed but care should be taken to ensure its original
form is not distorted.
If the flag is damaged or worn out, it should not
be discarded casually or used for other purposes; it should be
burned in a discreet place.
The rose of Sharon (Hibiscus Syriacus L.) has been generally
accepted as the national flower of Korea due to its popularity
among the Koreans
call it mugunghwa, or the "flower of eternity,
" as it embodies their
aspiration for eternal prosperity.
Appearance of Korean Peninsula
Over 70% of the land is
mountainous with the eastern regions consisting of mainly rugged
mountain ranges and deep valleys. Many people enjoy hiking in the
foothills and mountains. Most of the larger rivers and forests are
located in the west. The coastline is dotted with bays and it has some
of the highest tides in the world. The eastern coastline has many sandy
beaches, while the western side consists mainly of mud flats and rocky
Location: between 131°52'42"E (East) and 124°11'00"E (West), 43°00'39"N
and 33°06'40"N (South) Area: 222,154 kmē (South Korea: 99,392 kmē)
The country extends south from the northeastern end of Asia and consists of the
Korean Peninsula and over 3,400 islands. It is bordered in the north by Russia
China and by Japan across the East Sea. Since 1945, the country has been
into the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People's
Korea (North Korea). South Korea is divided into 9 provinces and 3
Population: over 46.9 million
Koreans descended from the Mongolian race in prehistoric times. Periods of
occupation have also added Chinese and Japanese blood to the gene pool.
they have borrowed from other cultures, especially Chinese and Japanese,
have maintained their own distinctive language, culture, and customs.
It is a
family orientated society, heavily based on Confucianism, which even in
times retains the basic patterns and manners of family-centered life.
History of Korea
Korea claims a 5,000+ year history, dating from the country's foundation by
Its history is full of foreign invaders and various factions vying for power.
Korean history is broken down into the following periods:
|Three Kingdoms (57 B.C.
- A.D. 668)
(668 - 935)
(918 - 1392)
(1392 - 1910)
Japanese Occupation (1910 - 1945)
Republic of Korea (1945 - present)
Legend of Tan-Gun
Legend has it that Hwan-ung, the son of Hwan-in (who was
the God of All and the ruler of Heaven), yearned to live on Earth among
the valleys and the mountains. His father sent him and 3,000 helpers to
rule Earth and provide humans with great happiness.
Hwan-ung descended to Mount T'aebaeksan on the border between Manchuria
and what is now North Korea. He named the place Shinshi, City of
God. Along with his ministers of clouds, rain, and wind, he instituted
laws and moral codes and taught the humans various arts, medicine, and
A tiger and a bear living in a cave together prayed to become human.
Upon hearing their prayers, Hwan-ung called them to him and gave them 20
cloves of garlic and a bunch of mugwort. He then ordered them to only
eat this sacred food and remain out of the sunlight for 100 days. The
tiger shortly gave up and left the cave. However, the bear remained true
and after 21 days was transformed into a woman.
The bear-woman was very grateful and made offerings to Hwan-ung.
However, lacking a companion she soon became sad and praved beneath a
sandalwood tree to be blessed with a child. Hwan-ung, moved by her
prayers, took her for his wife and soon she gave birth to a handsome
son. They named him Tan-gun, meaning "Altar Prince" or
Tan-gun developed into a wise and powerful leader and in 2333 BC moved
to P'yongyang and established the Choson ("Land of the Morning
Calm") Kingdom. Finally, at the age of 1,908, he returned to
T'aebaeksan where he became a mountain god.
57 B.C.: Evidence of inhabitants in Korea from as early as
4000 BC exists in Korea. Legend has that the man-god Tan Gun
founded the Joseon (meaning Land of the Morning Calm) Kingdom
in 2333 BC. Almost no centralized communities existed from then until
three kingdoms emerged in the 1st century BC.
B.C. - 668 A.D.: The Three Kingdoms of Silla, Goguryeo,
and Baekje had similar ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. Koguryo
occupied the northern part of the peninsula from the Chinese border to
the Han River, while Silla and Baekche dominated the southern regions.
All three kingdoms were heavily influenced by China, and Buddhism
was introduced to Koguryo in 372. Various alliances were formed either
with or against the Chinese until 660 when Silla allied with China to
overthrow Baekje. Goguryeo fell shortly afterwards in 668.
- 935: The Silla Kingdom period marked the start of
Korea's cultural development. Buddhism expanded and furled the
construction of numerous temples and art works. However, despite Chinese
influences, Silla remained largely tribal in culture. Society divided
into distinct classes with a large semi-slave population supporting an
aristocratic minority. Warlords began amassing power bases to the north
and eventually took over Silla and founded a new kingdom- Goryeo.
918 - 1392: Korea's
English name was derived during the Goryeo period. At this time
the government codified the laws and introduced a civil service system.
During this time Buddhism flourished and spread throughout the
peninsula. Like other kingdoms before it, Koryo was also subject to
internal strife and external threats, most notably from the Mongols who
had taken over China. In 1231 the Mongols invaded Korea, forcing the
royal family to flee to Kanghwa Island near Seoul. After 25 years of
struggle, the royal family finally surrendered. The following 150 years
saw continued Goryeo rule, but under the control of the Mongols. As the
Mongols declined in power, so too did Goryeo. In 1392 a Korean general, Yi,
Song-gye, was sent to China to campaign against the Ming rulers.
Instead, he allied himself with the Chinese, returned to overthrow the
Korean king, and setup his own dynasty. During this time, Korea also
perfected the art of celadon
1392 - 1910 The ruler
of the Yi Dynasty (also known as the Joseon Dynasty) moved
the capital to Hanyang-gun (today's Seoul) in 1394 and adopted
Confucianism as the country's official religion. As a result, Buddhists
lost much of their wealth and power. It was during this period that the
Korean alphabet, Hangul, was invented by King Sejong the
Great in 1446. This period also had its share of external problems,
suffering invasions by the Japanese (1592-1598) and the Manchus
(1627-1636). With the arrival of Japanese and Western traders in the
19th century, the Korean rulers tried to prevent the opening of the
country to foreign trade by closing the borders, earning Korea its
nickname of the Hermit Kingdom. Beginning in 1876, the Japanese forced a
series of Western-style trade agreements on Korea, leading to Japan's
eventual annexation of the country in 1910. Due to growing anti-Japanese
sentiment, in 1897 King Kojong declared himself to be emperor of the Taehan
Empire, an independent Korea. However, during the Russo-Japanese War
(1904-1905), Japanese forces moved onto the peninsula, despite Korean
declarations of neutrality. The signing of the Japan-Korea Protection
Treaty in 1905 gave Japan virtual control over Korea, and in 1910 a
Korean royal proclamation announced the annexation by Japan.
- 45: During its occupation, Japan built up Korea's
infrastructure, especially the street and railroad systems.
However, the Japanese ruled with an iron fist and attempted to
root out all elements of Korean culture from society. People
were forced to adopt Japanese names, convert to the Shinto
(native Japanese) religion, and were forbidden to use Korean
language in schools and business. The Independence Movement on
March 1, 1919, was brutally repressed, resulting in the killing
of thousands, the maiming and imprisoning of tens of thousands,
and destroying of hundreds of churches, temples, schools, and
private homes. During World War II, Japan siphoned off more and
more of Korea's resources, including its people, to feed its
Imperial war machine. Many of the forced laborers were never
repatriated to Korea.
- 60: The Japanese surrender on August 15, 1945,
cause the peninsula to came under divided rule: the USSR
occupied Korea north of the 38th parallel, while the U.S.
occupied the southern section. Under UN auspices, a democratic
government established the Republic of Korea (South
Korea) in 1948 with its capital in Seoul. The Communists
established the Democratic People's Republic of Korea
(North Korea) with its capital in P'yongyang. On June 25, 1950,
the North Korean Army invaded the South, starting the Korean
War. UN forces helped the South while Communist Chinese
volunteers sided with the North, resulting in a three year war
which left millions dead on both sides. (The Korean War
section gives greater detail about this period, including a
day-by-day calendar with historical events, diary entries from
people who were there, and period photographs.) Student protests
against the corrupt government caused Syngman Rhee to step down
as president in 1960.
- 79: On May 16, 1961, General Park, Chung Hee
organized a military coup and toppled the civilian government.
He then established martial law and later had himself elected
president. Though his leadership was oppressive, President Park
instigated many economic and social changes which helped elevate
Korea into and industrializing nation. Major infrastructure
enhancements, including the Seoul-Pusan expressway and the Seoul
subway system, began under his regime. The Korean CIA chief
assassinated President Park on October 26, 1979.
1980 - 87: In
the power vacuum left by President Park's death, General Chun,
Doo Hwan staged a military coup and seized power on May 17,
1980. After re-establishing martial law, he had himself elected
President and banned several hundred former politicians from
campaigning. A military crackdown against student protests in
the southern city of Kwangju resulted in hundreds of deaths and
injuries. Although his rule was more lenient than General
Park's, and he adopted many reforms, the Korean people became
tired of military rule. Violent student demonstrations in 1987
forced President Chun to implement more social reforms and hold
presidential elections in 1988.
- 92: General Noh, Tae-woo, Chun's chosen political
successor, won the presidential election. The opposition party
failed to field a single candidate, splitting the opposition
vote and giving Noh a comfortable win. During his term,
President Noh's government established diplomatic relations with
many non-capitalist countries, including the People's Republic
of China and the Soviet Union, both long-term allies of
communist North Korea. The successful hosting of the 1988
Olympic Games brought Korea to the center stage of world
- 1996: The election of President Kim, Young-sam
ushered in a new era of civilian rule. Since taking office he
worked hard to reform the widely criticized regulatory system
through his "New Economy" and
"Globalization" programs. The implementation of the
real-name financial transaction act put an end to the easy
hiding of hot money. Another 2,000 rules and regulations were
abolished or amended during Presdient Kim's term. Despite the
many contibutions he made, Kim, Young-sam will probably be
remembered most for the dismal economic situation the
country was in when he left office.
- present: The election of President Kim, Dae-jung
marked the first time an opposition leader has been elected as
president in Korea. After failing in four other attempts to win
the popular vote, his party joined with the party of Kim,
Jong-pil, and riding the population's growing resentment towards
the ruling party, gained the narrow majority needed to gain the
presidency. His term immediately got off to the rocky start when
the former ruling party boycotted the National Assembly session
which was to have confirmed President Kim's choice of cabinet
and prime minister candidates.
The Korean language is classified as a member of the Ural-Altaic family
(other members of this family include the Mongolian, Finnish, and Hungarian
languages.) Until the early 1400s, most documents were written in classical
Chinese characters (known in Korean as Hanja). As the idiographs are
difficult to learn, only the educated people could read and write. King Sejong,
the 4th ruler of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1910), set up a special committee
scholars in 1443 to create a new writing system specifically suited to the
The result was Han-gul (meaning 'the one script').
contained 28 symbols, although 4 have dropped out of use.
The alphabet has 10
vowels and 14 consonants.
The consonants represent the simplified outlines of
the parts of the mouth
and tongue used to pronounce them.
The vowels are
associated with elements of the philosophy of the Book of Changes.
Before you begin learning the language, you should take some time to practice
The symbols are combined into blocks, each one representing a single syllable.
Each sylable must start with a consonant, although the iung is silent in
the initial position.
Text is arranged either in the traditional vertical
fashion, with columns reading
from right to left (as in some newspapers and old
books) or in rows reading
left to right (as in most modern novels and
The alphabet may appear complicated, but it is actually easy to
Once you are familiar with the characters, looking up words in a
dictionary becomes easy.
When speaking Korean, you use formal or informal words and phrases,
the status of the person to whom you are talking.
For example, you generally use
informal speech to children and formal speech
to older people. It is better to
err by being too formal rather than showing disrespect.
However, Koreans do not
expect foreigners to be fluent and will usually excuse minor mistakes.
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