Do you know why the South Korean flag has different lines on it and that there are particular meanings behind each color? This blog will walk you through all the information you need to know about the South Korean flag and the key Korean terms that you must be familiar with. After this, there is no way that you would not be able to recognize the flag from afar. So, let’s start learning.
History Of The South Korean Flag
Just like what most countries experienced, there have been different Korean flags throughout history. Before 1800, a flag with eight black bars was used. It was also used in the Flags of Maritime Nations. After that, a new flag design was proposed in 1882. It was designed by Park Yeong-Hyo and was in the era of King Gojong of Korea. The current flag design is somewhat similar to the proposed design.
South Korean Flag: 5 Symbols
The national flag of South Korea is called a 태극기 (taegeuggi) in Korean. It has a white background with a taeguk in the middle. Along with that, there are four black trigrams present on each corner. Each element of the Korean national flag represents various ideas. Let’s break down the symbolism behind the entire flag below.
The color white holds great importance in Korean culture. It is considered a color of peace and tranquility. According to many historical texts, the color white also represents the Korean land. Even in the traditional times, the traditional Korean dresses, 한복 (hanbok), were primarily white in color.
A circle-shaped symbol in the center of the national flag comprises two equal parts: red and blue taegeuk. It is 태극 (taegeug) in Korean. This symbol was created by getting inspiration from the Chinese Yin Yang concept.
Yinyang is called 음과 양 (eumgwa yang) in the Korean language. The concept of yin-yang is exceptionally detailed and complicated in Chinese philosophy. But in a nutshell, the idea of yin-yang is that the entire world is made up of specific positive elements/ forces, which can also be represented as “the good,” and particular opposing elements/ force, which can be described as bad.
It also suggests that there is always something bad in all the good, and there is always something good in all the bad. These are the fundamental concepts of this phenomenon. Since Korean culture is influenced by Chinese culture in many ways, this concept is given due importance to Korean culture.
Blue And Red Colors In The National Flag
The color blue in the national flag represents evil, while the color red represents power, goodness, prosperity, and growth. The former is the representation of the opposing cosmic forces, while the latter is the representation of the positive cosmic forces.
Furthermore, these two colors in Korean culture also have other meanings. For example, the color blue is associated with feminine energy, calmness, serenity, and peace. At the same time, red is the color of power, masculine energy, wrath, and strength. It is the color of fire and sun. Sun is considered the source of life on Earth. Therefore, red is given an opposite status to that of blue.
The two completely opposite elements are combined to demonstrate the balance situation in society. The elements of red and blue are fire and wood. Their directions are South and East.
Yin-yang is a complex concept so make sure not to think that since blue signifies negative energy or evilness and at the same time feminine energy, then these might be linked. The blue and red or yin and yang are just the opposite sides, and together they come to create a balance and harmony. Similarly the colours are also used to represents seasons and directions which are opposite in nature.
There are four trigrams on each corner of the Korean flag. Each has a specific name and representation in Korean culture. All of the elements at the end lead to the attainment of harmony, as suggested by the Taegeuk. They are four out of eight trigrams (symbols) in Korean culture; Let’s learn about each.
The first trigram on the top left corner is 건 (geon). This element refers to heaven in Korean. These are three straight, parallel, and unbroken black lines.
This trigram also represents the season of spring in Korean culture. The direction related to this is East. The ethics associated with this trigram is humanity. The family status/ relation associated with the trigram is of a father. The element which this trigram represents is air. Furthermore, it also represents justice.
리 (Ri/ Li)
Below geon (on the bottom left corner) stands the second trigram called 리 (ri/ li). This element refers to the sun in Korean culture. These are three straight and parallel black lines, with the middle line broken/ segmented into two short lines.
This trigram also represents the season of autumn in Korean culture. The direction related to this is South. The ethics associated with this trigram is justice. The family status/ relation associated with the trigram is of a daughter. The element which this trigram represents is fire. Likewise, it also represents intuition.
In front of 건 (geon) and on the top right corner of the flag is 감 (gam). This element refers to the moon in Korean culture. These are three straight and parallel black lines, with the middle one unsegmented and the lines on the sides divided into two short lines each.
This trigram also represents the season of winter in Korean culture. The direction related to this is North. The ethics associated with this trigram is intelligence. The family relation associated with the trigram is of a son. The element which this trigram represents is water. Correspondingly, it also represents wisdom.
On the bottom right corner and in front of 리 (ri/ li) is 곤 (gon). This element refers to the Earth in Korean culture. These are three straight, parallel, and broken black lines (each divided into two halves).
This trigram also represents the season of summer in Korean culture. The direction related to this is West. The ethics associated with this trigram is courtesy. The family status associated with the trigram is of a mother. The element which this trigram represents is Earth. Furthermore, it also represents vitality.
The Concept Behind The Trigrams
The trigrams have been adopted from one of the most famous books of Confucius. Confucius was a great philosopher from China, and since Korea and China have shared history, they have many things interconnected. There are different ideas about the Chinese cosmology provided by Confucius, and one of those has been demonstrated in the book named i-Ching. i-Ching is means the book of change.
All of the elements mentioned above are what keep life in harmony. Without the sun, the Earth cannot grow; without the moon, there would be no night; without heavens/ celestial bodies, there would be no concept of space, and without Earth, there would be no planet to live on.
These elements are in perfect balance and thus explain how the change occurs from one extreme, e.g., winter, to another extreme, e.g., summer. It also describes how the cycle goes on without interrupting the peace in life. In a nutshell, a perfect depiction of harmony in the universe and in life.
A national emblem is a batch used to describe the distinction of a nation.
Discussing the flag of Korea without examining the Korean emblem would be half the information given. Korean emblem has a taeguk symbol on a flower which is also surrounded by a blue and white ribbon having 대한민국 (daehanmingug) written on it. 대한민국 (daehanmingug) means the Republic of Korean in English. The flower on the Korean emblem is the national flower of South Korea, also known as the Rose of Sharon.
There have been other emblems in history. The previous one had a taeguk surrounded by the four trigrams in a circular pattern, and before that, an ancient seal was used as the Korean emblem.
Hopefully, by now, you must be able to recognize the South Korean Flag. It surely will help you better appreciate the country if you know the basics of what makes the South Korean flag unique. If you liked this blog, then please also check out Popular Korean Makeup Vocabulary and Easy Korean Bbq Vocabulary.
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