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[Opinion] Ridiculous Taeguk-gi

Posted October. 03, 2003 23:14,   


Many countries’ national flags are not difficult to draw. They are made up of one or two simple colors. Contrarily, our national flag, Taeguk-gi have complex shapes and structure. If one is asked to draw the Taeguk-gi, it is going to be one of the most difficult challenges. The most difficult part is the shapes and allocation of four Gwes on the four corners of the flag. The meanings are also not easy to understand. Gun represents sky, spring, and the east; Gon represents earth, summer and the west; Ih represents the sun, autumn, the south; Gam represents the moon, winter, and the north.

Taeguk-gi that was first made during the reign of King Gojong near the end of Chosun dynasty was much more complicated than the one of today. Around the Taeguk symbol of red, blue, and yellow, there were eight Gwes. However in 1882, when Park, young-ho and his party were going to Japan as cultural envoys, they modified the flag on the ship similarly to the present one that has four Gwes around the Taeguk symbol and put it outside of their lodging. This is the beginning of the Taeguk-gi. After a number of modifications in its structure and production method, the Taeguk-gi of today was completed. Taeguk-gi so far had always reminded us of something solemn and grave. As a result, we did not dare to touch it or fold it at random and had to burn it instead of washing it when it got dirty.

Such an impression has changed since the 2002 World Cup, and the image was gradually altered to a more familiar and friendly one. Whenever the Korean team had a match, people were using the flag as sarongs, pants, capes, hoods, and other ways of cheering the team. Thinking from the old prejudice, the Taeguk-gi clothing was unthinkable even though there was the flag hung high up in the sky. Taeguk-gi, as the sacred and inviolable arena, came down closer to people and into their everyday life. Thanks to this trend, a lot of Taeguk-gi clothing manufacturing company is making quite a lot of unexpected money. We can still witness rooters in Taeguk-gi clothing at the stadiums where Korean teams are playing against the foreign ones.

No matter how familiar we got with Taeguk-gi, there still is something that we have to adhere to. We cannot allow Taeguk-gis blackened dusts and smokes on the street or wrongly painted and hung outside the buildings. It was such a shameful event that a ridiculously painted Taeguk-gi was flying outside the President’s car in the parade on National Armed Forces Day the day before yesterday. It was disappointing that the National Army that has to do its job without a single error has made such a mistake when the President was attending the ceremony. Even if it was not the President that was attending, they had to carefully inspect whether there had been any mistake made. “Ridiculous Taeguk-gi on the President’s car”, this especially hurts my feelings because it sounds as if it represents the current political situation where nothing is working out among complexity of things.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial Writer, hthwang@donga.com