Golden Dragon Karate Studio

Chu Ida Yong Tae Kwon Do

                 South Korean Flag    


                                              Korean anthem

  Many Taekwondo students wear the South Korean national flag (Tae-Guk) on their uniforms, see the flag in the dojang, and even bow in respect to the flag during training, without knowing about its background.

The Korean peninsula is divided into two nations, North Korea and South Korea, and each country has its own flag. The North Korean flag, and its coat of arms, have a red star on them that symbolizes communism. The coat of arms also has a power plant on it that symbolizes industry.

The Korean name for Korea is "Hangeuk" and its people are called "Hangeuksaram". The ancient name for Korea is "Choson", which means "the land of morning calm" and comes from the Choson (or Joseon ) Dynasty (1392-1905). The name "Korea" comes from the Koryo Dynasty (935-1392), during which westerners had their first contact with Korea.

Origin of Flag

By the end of the 19th century, Korea was under the influence of colonists such the Japanese, Chinese, and Russians, and it needed its own flag. According an article published on October 2, 1882 in the Tokyo daily newspaper, Emperor Go-jong designed the original flag, which was adopted in August 1882. The Emperor then ordered Young-Hyo Park to use the flag on his trip to Japan as a diplomat. Park used the flag again in 1887 on a trip to the United States.

The flag has been a source of pride and inspiration for Koreans as symbol of their struggle for independence and freedom. During the Japanese occupation, 1910-1945, the Japanese outlawed the flag in public places but the people kept it hidden until Liberation Day.  In 1950, after the formation of the Republic of Korea, the flag was officially adopted as the flag of South Korea.

Meaning of Symbols and Color


Objects depicted on the flag symbolize much of the thought and mysticism of oriental philosophy. The circle depicted on the flag, the eum-yang (shown on left), is divided equally and is in perfect balance. Its origin is based on the oriental philosophy of eum-yang (known in China as yin-yang). It was originally thought that this philosophy was developed in China by Chou Fung-i (1016-1073 AD), a metaphysical philosopher of the Sun Dynasty, who published his theory of tai-chi in 1070 AD and supposedly designed the tai-chi (yin-yang) symbol. However, a piece of stone with the eum-yang (yin-yang) symbol carved on it was discovered at the site of the Korean Buddhist temple Kam-Eun, which was built in 682 AD. This is the oldest known use of the eum-yang symbol. This discovery indicates that the symbol was in use in Korea as early as 682 AD, well before Chou Fung-i was born .

The eum-yang symbol expresses the dualism of the universe, the perfect harmony and balance among opposites, and the constant movement within the sphere of infinity. An example of dualism may be expressed in the upbringing of a child. There are two opposing methods to raise a child: praise or punishment. Praise is considered good and punishment is considered bad, but both are needed for a proper upbringing. However, too much of either may cause behavior problems with the child. There must be balance and harmony between the two extremes to ensure the child is brought up properly.

The white background of the flag symbolizes purity, sincerity, and the land. Eum (blue portion of the symbol) means dark, cold,  or negative, while yang (red portion of the symbol) means bright, hot, or positive. A very old Chinese book called Choo-Yuk claims that all objects, through the movement of yin (eum) and yang, express events by their dualism. For example, the moon is eum, the sun is yang; the earth is eum, the sky is yang; night is eum, the day is yang; and the winter is eum, the summer is yang. Eum and yang are relative. Therefore, "A" can be eum with respect to "B" while being yang with respect to "C." For example, the spring is eum to the summer yang while also being yang to the winter eum. Eum and yang compliment each other. Neither exists of itself alone, they must exist together. To appreciate beauty, you must have ugliness.  What benefit is good (yang) if evil (eum) does not exist?

When looking at the two comma-shaped sections "ukwdrops" in the eum-yang symbol, the thicker part of a section indicates the beginning and the slender part indicates the end. The eum begins where the yang gradually vanishes and vice versa. The red section is always on the top half of the circle.

The harmonious state of the movement of eum-yang is called tae-guk in Korean (tai- chi in Chinese). In Korea, the flag itself, is called Tae-Guk (the origin of all things in the universe) or Tae-Guk-Ki ( ki means flag). Tae-Guk is also known as the flag of "great extremes."


While the circle represents dualism, the four trigrams at the corners of the flag (called "gwe" in Korean) represent the four points of the compass, the concept of opposites and balance, and the government. The book of I Ching (Book of Changes), called Yeok in Korean, illustrates 64 trigrams, but the four used on the flag represent the essence of the Dao philosophy of the complete circle of life. Western people are probably familiar with the concept of Karma, or "What goes around comes around." Both Dao and Confucianism thought the family was the center of society. The family, and ones role in the family, determine ones position and role in society.

The upper left and lower right trigrams on the flag are "heaven or father" and  "earth or mother" They represent the head of the family. Without them, there is no family. Without the family, there is no society. The upper right and lower left trigrams are "water or daughter" , and "fire or son." Together the four trigrams express the mysteries of the universe, and they also represent the family: father, mother, daughter, and son. Confucianism thought these four elements made the perfect family. A family with these four parts had perfect balance (eum-yang). The symbols are placed in a circle to represent the circle of life (the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth) and the continuing nature of the universe.



Location: Upper left
Name: Heaven
Season: Spring
Direction: South
Family: Father
Known as: The creative one
Represents: Represents bright sunshine when the sun is in the South and its light that makes things grow. Meaning: All three lines in the trigram are solid representing the completeness of life. As heaven is greater than the earth, this trigram is first on the flag. The fathers concern for his family is greater than just earthly survival.
Location: Upper right
Name: Water
Season: Winter
Direction: West
Family: Daughter
Known as: The abysmal one
Represents: Represents twilight as the sun sets to the West and water, which has no shape or form.
Meaning:  The center is solid because she is not yet viewed as fertile, because she has bore no children. The top and bottom are open to represent her coming role as the provider of earthly necessities for her future family. As water flows, when she marries, she will flow out of one family and into another.
Location: Lower left
Name: Fire
Season: Autumn
Direction: East
Family: Son
Known as: The persisting one
Represents: Represents fire that gives warmth and light, and dawn and early sunlight as the sun rises in the East.
Meaning: Trigram is closed at the top and bottom, showing that a son must be well grounded in the heavenly and scholarly ways for his coming role as the father of his family. The center line is open because the son has not yet fathered a child and he so is viewed as incomplete.
Location: Lower right
Name: Earth
Season: Summer
Direction: North
Family: Mother
Known as: The receptive one
Represents: Represents total darkness when the sun is in the North.
Meaning: Earth and mothers are the source of life. The top and bottom line of the trigram are open indicating a mother's receptiveness and the incompleteness of life on earth. The center is also open representing the completeness and perfection of motherhood.. The role of the the mother is to provide for the earthly necessities of life. 

The I Ching illustrates the same trigram layout that is depicted on the flag. It shows the eum-yang symbol in the center and trigrams on the sides, but it shows eight trigrams.  The other trigrams are "mountain" and "lake", and "thunder" and "wind."  Each of the trigrams have a special meaning and are either eum or yang. Heaven and lake are major yangs; water and wind are minor yangs. Earth and mountain are major eums; thunder and fire are minor eums. Originally there were only five trigrams, one for each of the five elements: water, metal, fire, wood, and earth. They were arranged like a compass, with earth in the center, metal on the left, wood on the right, water at the top, and fire at the bottom.