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South Korea

Republic of Korea

Last modified: 2021-08-24 by christopher oehler
Keywords: korea | south korea | republic of korea | ying yang | kwae |
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[South Korean flag] [FIS Code] 2:3 image by Željko Heimer

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

The Pantone colors reported by Chris are confirmed by the South Korean Embassy in Russia (source, and the second link below)
The main colors used for the South Korean flag is in CIE and also Munsell. is the page about the flag from the Ministry of Public Administration and Security. The first link from the S. Korea Embassy provides the English translation for the colors in both systems:
"Standard color shades of Taegeukgi, the Korean National Flag are follows: in the CIE System, the x, y, and Y coordinates for the red are x=0.5640, y=0.3194, Y=15.3; for the blue, x=0.1556, y=0.1354, Y=6.5. Alternatively, in the Munsell System of Color Notation, the red corresponds to 6.0R 4.5/14, and the blue to 5.0PB 3.0/12."
The second link provides the Munsell colors for black and white; N 0.5 and N 9.5, respectively. For those two colors in the CIE system, the government leaves them blank.
Zachary Harden, 02 March 2010

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

Mirrored flag

[South Korean mirrored flag] image by Željko Heimer

On 2 July 2007, "Chosun Ilbo" (English edition) reported the use of a faulty South Korean flag in video messages featuring President of the Republic Roh Moo-hyun. The emblem in the middle of the flag is vertically mirrored. Specially manufactured for the video shoot broadcast on 28 June 2007, the flag was quickly spotted by a citizen as erroneous and immediately destroyed. The very same erroneous flag already appeared as painted on the President's plane during his official travel to Spain and Italy in February 2007.
Ivan Sache, 14 May 2009

Use of the national flag for profit banned

Quoting "The Dong-A Ilbo", English edition, 11 September 2009:
"The Public Administration and Security Ministry yesterday banned the use of the national flag for profit. Using the flag in ads or hanging it to promote a store is not allowed, the ministry said. New guidelines on the national flag were dispersed over five statues under an order by the prime minister that took effect yesterday.
The new order encourages the use of the national flag and the yin-yang symbol but discourages those who want to use them to promote a person or group or generate profit.
Using a picture of the national flag in books to be published to make it appear as if they were certified by the government is banned, as is use of the yin-yang symbol on ads. Use of the national flag in goods that consumers can decide to buy or in art pieces is allowed, however. To enhance Korea’s dignity, the national flag’s image will be banned in disposable goods such as napkins, cups at fast food restaurants, or on sitting mats. Using the flag on a screen instead of a real one for the pledge of allegiance is also disallowed."
( - Korean version)
Ivan Sache, 11 September 2009

National Flag at the London 2012 Olympics

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012 [loc12]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For (South) Korea: PMS 186 red, 294 blue and black. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012

Vertical flag

[Vertical flag]   [Vertical flag]
obverse and reverse
images by Zachary Harden, 04 May 2016

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

The vertical flag is a legal variant of the national flag, according to Judging the image and the text, the flag was added by 1.5 or 1 units (I cannot make out the Korean text and Google translate was not helping). However, I have redrawn the image using the 1.5 additional units by modifying the image drawn by Željko.
Zachary Harden, 04 March 2010

I have no idea about legality of this arrangement, but for the reference here seems to be legislation regarding the flag which seems to be law of 17 July 2008.
The only links therefore that I got working are those to drawings/tables|76945B0|Y providing apparently the standard sizes of the flag:
540 × 360 cm
450 × 300 cm
306 × 204 cm
270 × 180 cm
225 × 150 cm
180 × 120 cm
153 × 102 cm
135 × 90 cm
90 × 60 cm
45 × 30 cm
27 ×18 cm|76945B1|Y providing colour specifications
red x = 0.5640 y = 0.3194 Y = 15.3
blue x = 0.1556 y = 0.1354 Y = 6.5
The CIE values for black and white are left blank, since CIE system does not provide for these "non-colours", only for chromatic shades (just like original Pantone do not provide for them as well).

red 6.0R 4.5/14
blue 5.0PB 3.0/12
black N 0.5
white N 9.5

This site translated that to Pantone 186C amd 294C for red and blue.|76945B2|Y sees to prescribe the finial for the flag staff in shape of a - well I am not sure what to call it...|76945B3|Y this one may be looking like possible candidate for the definition of a vertical flag? but I did not get the drawing...|76945B4|Y also did not help me much.
Željko Heimer, 06 March 2010

Based on a document I have from the Ministry of Public Administration and Security, "TAEGEUKGI - Korean National Flag" (2008, Korean Language), I am able to clarify the design of the South Korean flag when it is flown vertically. Many times, these are use for light poles for national celebrations or state visits. If the flag is being flown on the viewer's right of the light pole or post, the trigram "geon" (kun on our page) must be at the top right with the red portion of the disc facing to the right.
Conversely, when the national flag is on the left side of the pole, the "geon/kun" must be at the top left and the red portion must face the left. When another flag is displayed on the light pole with the South Korean flag, the South Korean flag takes the left side and the other flag takes the right side. As for my main issue from before, the overall size of the flag, the laws listed above have been clarified for me (looking at the legislation and also from looking at actual flags in the field. The base design and the ratio of the flag, which is 2x3, must not be altered; however, after the main flag pattern is left alone, any additional white fabric can be added below the flag and can be any size desired. The law illustration provides for 1.5 of the flag's length but I seen photos where it can be even longer than twice the flag.
Zachary Harden, 04 May 2016

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