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[Op-Ed] Love of National Flag

Posted September. 12, 2009 03:47,   


A large American flag with the phrase “We will never forget them” hangs on the Deutsche Bank building south of what used to be the World Trade Center, which collapsed after the 2001 terrorist attack. The Smithsonian Museum in Washington exhibits the U.S. flag flying at McKinley Fortress in Baltimore, which was in heavy flames in the War of 1812. The poem that lawyer Francis Scott Key wrote to describe the overflowing emotion at the time became the lyrics of the American national anthem.

Americans are known for their strong love for their national flag. Most U.S. states adopted the Stars and Stripes Protection Act in World War I. In 1968, a federal law was legislated to punish those who defame the flag, which led to the prosecution for the first time of people who burned the flag in demonstrations against the Vietnam War. In 1989, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the behavior of Gregory Johnson, who was caught for burning the flag in protest of the Reagan administration’s foreign policy, should be protected under Article 1 of the amended U.S. Constitution. Federal lawmakers approved a new Stars and Stripes Protection Act, but the act was again ruled unconstitutional. This episode shows public sentiment seeking to honor the national flag conflict with freedom of speech.

In Korea, a newly passed order by the prime minister bans inscription of the Korean flag’s yin-yang design in advertising and flying large-sized flags to promote business at stores. Also banned is the use of the flag in published books to advertise them as if they were certified by the government or the use of the yin-yang pattern in advertising. Businesses such as fast food chains are not allowed to print the yin-yang pattern on disposable tissues or cups or inscribe the flag in cushions for floor seating.

The national flag, also known as “taegeukgi,” was triumphantly regenerated in the hands of the Red Devils cheering squad for Korea and the public in the 2002 World Cup. Half-sleeved T-shirts made of a cut off taegeukgi and skirts made with a folded taegeuk pattern also made their public debut. This is welcome news for the honorable taegeuk pattern to approach the public in the form of daily living items and arts. The national flag, which was born at the end of the Korean Empire, conveys the spirit of the 1919 independence movement under Japan’s colonial rule and patriotism that protected Korea in the Korean War. Regardless of the administrative order, the public must remember the love of country by Korean patriots as conveyed in taegeukgi.

Editorial writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)