What Do The Colors And Symbols Of The Flag Of South Korea Mean?

By Oishimaya Sen Nag on July 24 2018 in World Facts

The Taeguk at the center of the South Korean flag symbolizes the balance of the universe.
The Taeguk at the center of the South Korean flag symbolizes the balance of the universe.

A Brief History of South Korea

South Korea is an East Asian nation covering the southern half of the Korean Peninsula. The country has a highly mountainous terrain. Seoul serves as the capital city of this country. As per records, humans have inhabited the Korean Peninsula since the Lower Palaeolithic Period. The kingdom of Korea started in 2333 BCE when King Dangun started his rule in the region by establishing the ancient kingdom of Gojoseon. Several dynasties ruled over Korea for centuries until the Empire of Japan annexed it in 1910. Following the Second World War, the Korean Peninsula was divided into the southern US occupied zone and the northern Soviet Union occupied zone. The Republic of Korea or South Korea was created in 1948 when elections were held in the US occupied zone of Korea. North Korea or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was formed in the Soviet zone of Korea. Two years later, the Korean War started where the two newly formed nations fought against each other with the involvement of foreign powers like the US, China, and the Soviet Union. However, although the war ended three years later, North Korea and South Korea never returned to friendly terms and today, the border between these nations is one of the most heavily fortified ones in the world.

History of the Flag of South Korea

For a long period of time, Korea did not have any national flag. However in 1876, during the signing of the Japan-Korea treaty, Korea first faced the issue of the absence of a national flag as Japan displayed one of its own during this time. However, a flag was not immediately adopted. For several years, discussions related to the flag took place. Finally, in 1883, the Taegukgi, the flag of Korea, was officially adopted. It had a ying-yang symbol at the center and four trigrams surrounding it. This flag remained in use even after the annexation of the peninsula by Japan. Following World War II and the division of the Korean Peninsula into two zones, the Taegukgi remained in use in both the zones. However, a few years later, North Korea adopted a new design for its flag. South Korea, on the other hand, continued to use the Taegukgi and officially adopted it on October 15, 1949.

Design of the South Korean Flag

There are three parts to the South Korean flag. It is rectangular shaped and has a white background. A Taeguk is located at the center of the flag. Each corner of the flag also features a black trigram. Thus, there are four trigrams in the flag.

Meaning of the Colors and Symbols

White is one of the traditional colors in the culture of the country. White represents purity and peace. In the 19th century, Koreans wore a white-colored traditional daily attire. Thus, the flag of the country has a white field. The Taeguk at the center symbolizes the balance of the universe, a concept that is based on the traditional um-yang philosophy of the region. The red and the blue halves of the Taeguk represents the positive cosmic and the negative cosmic forces, respectively. The trigrams together symbolize harmony and movement with each of the trigrams representing the various classical elements.

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