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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.

Flag origin

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. Korea first felt the need for a national flag as it was preparing to conclude the Korean-American Treaty of Commerce, which was concluded on May 22 and signed on June 6, 1882. This was during the 19th year of the reign of King Go-jong of the Chosen Kingdom (1392-1910). Though China had been pressing Korea to use a dragon design on its national flag, Korea rejected this in favor of a blue and red Yin-Yang on a white field, a favorite Korean design since ancient times. Thus, the taegeuk design flag became the temporary national flag.

Later Korea added eight trigrams combinations of three unbroken and broken bars around the taegeuk circle, creating the Taegeukgi, which served as the national colors for a while. According to an article published on October 2, 1882, in the Tokyo daily newspaper, Emperor Go-jong designed the original flag.

In September 1882, King Go-jong appointed Bak Yeoung-hyo as his ambassador to Japan. The Emperor then ordered Bak to use the flag on his trip to Japan. Bak used the flag again in 1887 on a trip to the United States. While aboard a ship heading for Japan, Bak drew a national flag with a taegeuk circle but included only four trigrams instead of eight, and started using the flag on the 25th of that month. On October 3, Bak reported this change to King Go-jong who formally proclaimed the Taegeukgi as the national flag on March 6, 1883.

For some unknown reason, however, he did not have formal instructions published at that time on how to make the flag. In fact, it was not until June 29, 1942, that the provisional Korean government in exile enacted a law on the uniform method of making the national flag. The law was promulgated but as the government was in exile, it was not widely known to Koreans at home still under Japanese colonial rule.

Present day

The flag has been a source of pride and inspiration for Koreans as a 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. Following the founding of the Republic of Korea on August 15, 1948, the government felt that it should codify the method of making the national flag. This prompted the government to form a special commission in January 1949 that issued the provision on the national flag on October 15 of that year. Since then, the Republic of Korea has been using the Taegeukgi as the national flag.

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