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South Korea

Republic of Korea

Last modified: 2006-06-24 by phil nelson
Keywords: korea | south korea | republic of korea | ying yang | kwae |
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[South Korean flag] image by Željko Heimer
Proportions: 2:3
Usage Code: [FIS Code]

Local Name: 대한 민국 (Daehan Minguk)
ISO Code: KR KOR 410
FIPS 10-4 Code: KS
MARC Code: ko

See also:

Pantone Colors

According to "Standard Shades of the Korean Flag 1997-10", issued by the Ministry of Information in 1997, the officially recommended colours are red 186C and blue 294C in the Pantone Matching System.
Christopher Southworth, 25 September 2004

Symbolism of the flag

The Korean national flag is called Taegukki. The meaning of Korean National Flag is very philosophical. The origin comes from the old oriental philosophy called the theory of Um-Yang, in Chinese pronunciation Yin-Yang. Yin means dark and cold, while Yang means bright and hot. The idea of Yin-Yang is supposed to be originated from the old Korean philosophy of Samshin meaning three gods. A very old book called Chuyok or Iching in Chinese, which was written by (a) Chinese several thousands years ago, claims all objects and events in the world are expressed by the movement of yin and yang. For example, the moon is yin while the sun is yang; the earth is yin and the heaven is yang; a woman is yin and a man is yang; the night is yin and the day is yang; the winter is yin and the summer is yang, etc. Yin and yang are relative. Therefore, A can be yin with respect to B while A can also be yang with respect to C. For instance, the spring is yin w.r.t. the summer and it is at the same time yang w.r.t. the winter. Yin and yang are opposite and struggle each other while they cooperate in harmony. The harmonious state of the movement of yin and yang is called Taeguki, or Taikukkki, Taichi in Chinese, which is also the name of the Korean national flag, i.e. Taegukki. Ki means a flag. (See the similarity between the concept of Yin-Yang-Taichi and the dialectics of thesis-antithesis-synthesis.) The upper half circle, red, of Taeguk means yang and the lower half circle, blue, means yin. They stand for the state of harmony of yin and yang.

The symbols, called Kwae, in the four corners, mean the principle of movement and harmony. Basically, each Kwae consists of three bars that can be either broken or unbroken bars. A broken bar stands for yin while an unbroken bar stands for yang. For example, the upper left Kwae, called Kun, is composed of three solid unbroken bars. And the lower left Kwae, called Yi, is composed of two unbroken bars and one broken bar in between. Since one bar can be either broken or unbroken, i.e. same concept as bit as in the binary computer world, three bars can express 23 = 8 combinations. If you use four bars you can express 24=64 combinations; 10 bars, 210=1024, etc. Therefore the more bars you use the more different situation you can express with Kwae. Among so many states of Kwae, i.e. principle of movement of objects and events, four basic Kwae are used in the Korean National Flag. Those are Kun meaning heaven, Yi meaning fire, Kam meaning water, and Kon meaning earth. Each of them symbolizes a different state of movement.

___ ___ _ _ _ _
Kun ___ Yi _ _ Kam ___ Kon _ _
___ ___ _ _ _ _

The white color of background stands for the peace and the purity of the Korean people who have loved to wear white colored clothes. Therefore, the Korean people have been called the white-clad nation.

To conclude, the symbols, Yin, Yang, Kun, Yi, Kam, and Kon, express the principle of the movement of all objects in the universe and the movement of the universe itself. It also stands for peace and harmony.
Jorge Candeias, 14 October 1997

The white field represents the people's purity and their desire for peace, while the central emblem is the red and blue yin-yang symbol, depicting the concepts of creation and development through duality and balance. Surrounding this are four black KWAE symbols, which are taken from the I CHING and represent the four seasons, the four compass points, the four elements, and the sun, moon, earth, and heaven. They denote the process of yin and yang going through a spiral of change and growth.
Nick Artimovich, 01 November 1996

from the official site of the (South) Korean government:
The Korean flag is called taegukki. Its design symbolizes the principles of the yin and yang in Oriental philosophy. The circle in the center of the flag is divided into two equal parts. The upper red section represents the positive cosmic forces of the yang. Conversely, the lower blue section represents the negative cosmic forces of the yin. The two forces together embody the concepts of continual movement and the balance and harmony that characterize the sphere of infinity. The circle is surrounded by four trigrams, one in each corner. Each trigram symbolizes one of the four universal elements: heaven, earth, fire and water."

Ivan Sache, 29 December 1998

Use and abuse of the flag

The concept of "Nation" or "Country" in eastern society is completely different from that of western society. If there are some more members from Asia, they may raise their hands for me. At least traditionally, the "Nation" is the target of absolute loyalty. Although the more individualized way of life might dilute such kind of thought, it is still in the basement of everybody's mind.

In that reason, everything which can signify the Nation itself is regarded as somewhat sacred. Not exactly sacred. But not abusable. It is quite rare for Koreans to use National flag somewhere else except for some important national ceremony, not to mention of modification of national flag.

As far as I know, in the Korean history, there were no political party which has their own flag which is from the modification of National flag except for the one. The one is the current major opposition party (I think so. not exactly. It may be now ruling party(?!;)).) But the shape is completely different from the National flag that without their explanation, you may not notice that that flag is from the national flag.

When I visited USA, I found many people put their national flag (miniaturized version) on their desk. Numerous national flags (stars & stripes) were in the office. It was quite impressive in the sense of Korean. They looks really patriotic. But that is their daily lives. Simply they do so since they like the design of stars & stripes.
Gyudong Kim

Vertical flag

[Vertical flag] image by David Kendall, 27 February 1998

I saw on the news recently the inauguration of the new S. Korean president Kim. During his celebratory ride around Seoul, I saw flying from the lampposts what looked like vertical S. Korean flags. It looks like the proportions were 2:1 on it.
David Kendall, 27 February 1998


[Korea Jack] image by Željko Heimer

Two basic version of the jack (designated often as Naval Ensign, too) are found in vex-literature. As Armand explained, the correct version is the one "without hooks" on anchors, and as Armand du Payrat also explained the flag in question is indeed the jack and not the naval ensign. The ROK Navy vessels use the national flag as the naval ensign.
Željko Heimer, 1 June 2001

President's Flag

[Presidential flag] image by Željko Heimer

Based upon Flags and Arms Across the World and The World Encyclopedia of Flags (which claims that this flag has been in use since 1967),
Željko Heimer, 30 May 2001

Coat of Arms

[Coat of Arms, South Korea] image by Jan