A national flag is the representation of a nation and everything that the nation stands for as a country. In many ways, it is a single image that represents an entire people and its culture.
The flag of South Korea is unique, but its design actually has significant symbolism. This flag is the celebration of the liberation of Korea and is packed with symbolism of its freedom struggle. With highlights of white, black, red, and blue can be seen in a ratio of 3 to 2. The white background is a traditional color in Korean culture that symbolizes purity and peace. The black is used for the four trigrams, each representing a different virtue. The yin-yang in the middle is half red and half blue, with blue symbolizing negative cosmic forces, while a red represents positive cosmic forces.
The flag is known as “Taegukgi / Taegeukgi,” literally Supreme Ultimate Flag.
Park Yeong-Hyo, a Korean political leader, is credited with designing the flag of Korea and was also the first person to use Taegukgi in the Empire of Japan in 1882. It was declared as the official national flag by the 26th monarch of the Joseon Dynasty and has continued to be used as a national flag even after the establishment of the South Korean state on August 15, 1948.
History of the Flag
Initially, Korea did not have a national flag. Until then, the need for a flag did not create a problem. However, an issue arose during the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1876 when the Japanese flag was displayed, and Korea didn’t have one. During that time, there were proposals to create a national flag, but the government deemed it of the least importance. By the next decade, an increase in negotiations led to more of a need for a national flag. In 1882, when, Park Yeong-hyo created a scale model of the Taegukgi to the Joseon government and became the first person to use the Taegukgi in the Empire of Japan. The following year, it was officially designated as the national flag.
After Korea gained its independence in 1945, the flag known as Taegukgi remained in use. A few years later in 1949, when South Korea was established as a separate state, the current flag was designed and made official. In 1984, the exact dimensions of the flag were codified and in 1997, the exact colors were specified in a presidential decree.
The Design of Taegeuki and Its Symbolism
Taegeuki embodies the Korean ideals of everlasting prosperity and unity with the universe. Koreans have traditionally used the Taegeuk, or yin and yang, pattern to represent their nation.
The white canvas of Taegeuki represents the beautiful spirits of Koreans and their traditional love for light, purity, and peace. White is the traditional color of Korea, which was the everyday attire of the 19th-century Koreans.
The trigrams in the four corners, knowns as Gwae, stand for the yang ( – ) and the yin ( -- ) energies that radiate out from the intertwined shapes in the centre. The four gwae signify heaven, earth, water and fire; together, they reproduce the continuous cycle of harmony and nature.