Open main menu

Flag of South Korea

The flag of South Korea, also known as the Taegukgi (also spelled as Taegeukgi, lit. "Taegeuk flag"), has three parts: a white rectangular background, a red and blue Taegeuk in its center, and four black trigrams one toward each corner. The first pattern of Taegukgi was made by Kojong.[2] Flags similar to the current Taegeukgi were used as the national flags of Korea by the Joseon dynasty, the Korean Empire, and by the Korean exile government during Japanese rule. It has continued to be used as a national flag even after the establishment of the South Korean state on August 15, 1948.

Republic of Korea
Flag of South Korea.svg
NameTaegukgi / Taegeukgi
(Korean: 태극기)
(Hanja: )
UseNational flag and ensign
AdoptedJanuary 27, 1883 (original version, used by the Joseon dynasty)
June 29, 1942 (Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea)
October 15, 1949 (as the flag of South Korea)[1]
May 30, 2011 (current version)
DesignA white field with a red and blue taegeuk in the center that is surrounded by four varying groups of short black bars toward each corner
Naval jack of South Korea.svg
Variant flag of Republic of Korea
UseNaval jack
Flag of South Korea
Revised RomanizationTaegeukgi


The flag's background is white, a traditional color in Korean culture. White was common in the daily attire of 19th-century Koreans, and it still appears in contemporary versions of traditional Korean garments, such as the hanbok. The colour represents peace and purity.[3]

The circle in the middle represents balance in the universe. The red half represents positive cosmic forces, and the blue half represents the opposing negative cosmic forces.

Together, the trigrams represent movement and harmony as fundamental principles. Each trigram (hangeul: [gwae]; hanja: ) represents one of the four classical elements,[4] as described below:

Trigram Korean name Celestial body Season Cardinal direction Virtue Family Natural element Meaning
(건 / )
(천 / )
(춘 / )
(동 / )
(인 / )
(부 / )
(천 / )
(정의 / 正義)
(리 / )
(일 / )
(추 / )
(남 / )
(의 / )
(녀 / )
(화 / )
(결실 / 結實)
(감 / )
(월 / )
(동 / )
(북 / )
(지 / )
(자 / )
(수 / )
(지혜 / 智慧)
(곤 / )
(지 / )
(하 / )
(서 / 西)
(례 / )
(모 / )
(토 / )
(생명력 / 生命力)


  The earliest surviving depiction of the flag was printed in a U.S. Navy book Flags of Maritime Nations in July 1882.[5]
Ceremony inaugurating the South Korean government on August 15, 1948.


In 1876, the absence of a national flag became an issue for Korea, at the time reigned over by the Joseon dynasty. Before 1876, Korea did not have a national flag, nor did it particularly see the need for one. The lack of a national flag became a quandary during negotiations for the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1876, at which the delegate of Japan displayed the Japanese national flag, whereas the Joseon dynasty had no corresponding national symbol to exhibit. At that time, some proposed to create a national flag, but the Korean government looked upon the matter as unimportant and unnecessary. By 1880, the proliferation of foreign negotiations led to the need for a national flag.[6] The most popular proposal was described in the "Korea Strategy" papers, written by the Chinese delegate Huang Zunxian. It proffered to incorporate the flag of the Qing dynasty of China into that of the Joseon dynasty of Korea. In response to the Chinese proposal, the Korean government dispatched delegate Lee Young-Sook to consider the scheme with Chinese statesman and diplomat Li Hongzhang. Li agreed with some elements of Huang's suggestion while accepting that Korea would make some alterations. The Qing government assented to Li's conclusions, but the degree of enthusiasm with which the Joseon government explored this proposal is unknown.[1]

The issue remained unpursued for a period, re-emerging with the negotiation of the United States–Korea Treaty of 1882, also known as the Shufeldt Treaty. The controversy arose after the delegate Lee Eung-Jun presented a flag similar to the flag of Japan to the Chinese official Ma Jianzhong. In response to the discussion, Ma Jianzhong argued against the proposed idea of using the flag of the Qing dynasty and proposed a flag with a white background, with a half-red and half-black circle in the center, with eight black bars around the flag.[1] On August 22, 1882, Park Yeong-hyo created a scale model of the Taegukgi to the Joseon government. Park Yeong-hyo became the first person to use the Taegukgi in the Empire of Japan in 1882.[7] On January 27, 1883, the Joseon government officially promulgated Taegukgi to be used as the official national flag.[1]

In 1919, a flag similar to the current South Korean flag was used by the provisional Korean government-in-exile based in China.

After the restoration of Korean independence in 1945, the Taegukgi remained in use after the southern portion of Korea became a democratic republic under the influence of the United States but also used by the People's Republic of Korea. At the same time, the flag of the United States was also used by the United States Army Military Government in Korea alongside with the Taegukgi. Following the establishment of the South Korean state in August 1948, the current flag was declared official by the government of South Korea on October 15, 1949,[1] although it had been used as the de facto national flag before then.[8]

In February 1984, the exact dimensional specifications of the flag were codified.[9][10][11][12] In October 1997, the exact colours of the flag were specified via presidential decree for the first time.[3][13]

Cultural role in contemporary South Korean societyEdit

The name of the South Korean flag is used in the title of a 2004 South Korean film about the Korean War, Tae Guk Gi.

Observers such as The Times Literary Supplement's Colin Marshall and Korea scholar Brian Reynolds Myers have noted that the South Korean flag in the context of the country's society is often used as an ethnic flag, representing a grander nationalistic idea of a racialized (Korean) people rather than merely symbolizing the (South Korean) state itself as in other countries.[14][15] Myers argues that: "When the average [South Korean] man sees the [South Korean] flag, he feels fraternity with [ethnic] Koreans around the world."[16] Myers also stated in a 2011 thesis that: "Judging from the yin-yang flag's universal popularity in South Korea, even among those who deny the legitimacy of the Republic of Korea, it evidently evokes the [Korean race] race first and the [South Korean] state second."[17] This was reflected in the original version of the South Korean flag's pledge of allegiance, instituted in 1972 and used until 2007, which stressed allegiance to the "Korean race" rather than the South Korean state.[17]


The South Korean flag is considered by a large part of the country's citizens to represent the "Korean race" rather than solely the South Korean state; consequently flag desecration by the country's citizens is rare when compared to other countries, where citizens may desecrate their own national flags as political statements. Thus even some South Korean citizens opposed to the state will still treat their national flag with reverence and respect: "There is therefore none of the parodying or deliberate desecration of the state flag that one encounters in the countercultures of other countries."[17]

Regardless of frequency, the South Korean Criminal Act punishes desecration of the South Korean national flag in various ways:[18]

  • Article 105 imposes up to 5 years in prison, disfranchisement of up to 10 years, or a fine up to 7 million South Korean won for damaging, removing, or staining a South Korean flag or emblem with intent to insult the South Korean state. Article 5 makes this crime punishable, even if done by aliens outside South Korea.
  • Article 106 imposes up to 1 years in prison, disfranchisement of up to 5 years, or a fine up to 2 million South Korean won for defaming a South Korean flag or emblem with intent to insult the South Korean state. Article 5 makes this crime punishable, even if done by aliens outside South Korea.

South Korea also criminalizes not just desecration of the South Korean flag, but the flags of other countries' as well:

  • Article 109 imposes up to 2 years in prison or a fine up to 3 million South Korean won for damaging, removing, or staining a foreign flag or emblem with intent to insult a foreign county. Article 110 forbids prosecution without foreign governmental complaint.


Proper vertical display of flag


Flag construction sheet

The width and height are in the ratio of 3 to 2. There are five sections on the flag, the taegeuk and the four groups of bars. The diameter of the circle is half of the height. The top of the taegeuk should be red and the bottom of the taegeuk should be blue. The groups of bars are put in the four corners of the flag.[19]


Darker version of the flag using RGB approximations of semi-official Pantone approximations[20]

The colours of the Taegukgi are specified in the "Ordinance Act of the Law concerning the National Flag of the Republic of Korea." (Korean: 대한민국 국기법 시행령)[21] There were no exact specifications regarding the colours until 1997, when the South Korean government decided to provide standard specifications for the flag. In October 1997, a Presidential ordinance on the standard specification of the South Korean flag was promulgated,[22] and that specification was acceded by the National Flag Law in July 2007.

The colours are defined in legislation by the Munsell and CIE colour systems:

Scheme Munsell[23] CIE (x, y, Y)[23] Pantone[20] Hex triplet (converted from CIE)[23]
White N 9.5 N/A N/A #FFFFFF
Red 6.0R 4.5/14 0.5640, 0.3194, 15.3 186 Coated #CD2E3A
Blue 5.0PB 3.0/12 0.1556, 0.1354, 6.5 294 Coated #0047A0
Black N 0.5 N/A N/A #000000


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e 태극기 [Taegukgi] (in Korean). Academy of Korean Studies. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  2. ^ In the Tokyo daily newspaper, 《 Sinsa》, dated Oct. 2, 1882, an article was reported that King Gojong was the direct architect of the Taegeukgi. "There was no national flag in Joseon until now, but this time, King Gojong rejected the idea of using the national flag of Joseon as a symbol of the Qing Dynasty by painting a dragon on the blue background of a triangle, and ordered the Taegeukdo Island to be red, blue, and four corners of the flag to be attached to Joseon National Flag.(origin: Kim Young-jo "Before China," Ohmynews, April 20, 2007) said that the first designer of the Taegeukgi was Gojong, and that Park Young-hyo only played a role in drawing the Taegeukgi under King Gojong's command (origin: Flag of the Republic of Korea, Doosan Baekgwa).
  3. ^ a b "National Administration : National Symbols of the Republic of Korea : The National Flag - Taegeukgi". Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  4. ^ "The World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  5. ^ United States. Navy Dept. Bureau of Navigation (1882). Flags of maritime nations: from the most authentic sources. Bureau of Navigation. p. 16.
  6. ^ "대한민국[Republic of Korea,大韓民國]" (in Korean). Doosan Corporation. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  7. ^ 태극-기太極旗 [Taeguk-gi] (in Korean). NAVER Corp. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  8. ^ "National Flag of North Korea". Worldflags 101. Retrieved November 5, 2013.
  9. ^ "History of the South Korean flag".
  10. ^ "flag of Korea, South". Encyclopedia Britannica.
  11. ^ "History of the South Korean flag". Archived from the original on 2017-03-26. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Flag History". Destination South Korea. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  13. ^ "NATIONAL SYMBOLS OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA". Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  14. ^ O'Carroll, Chad (2014). "BR Myers - Current Issues". YouTube. Retrieved September 11, 2017. [T]he South Korean flag continues to function, at least in South Korea, not as a symbol of the state but as a symbol of the race.
  15. ^ Marshall, Colin (2017). "How Korea got cool: The continued rise of a country named Hanguk". The Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved June 24, 2019. When people wave the South Korean flag, in other words, they wave the flag not of a country but of a [ethnic] people.
  16. ^ "North Korea's Unification Drive— B.R. Myers". Sthele Press. December 20, 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  17. ^ a b c Myers, Brian Reynolds (2011). "North Korea's state-loyalty advantage". Free Online Library. Archived from the original on 20 May 2018. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  18. ^ "Criminal Act". South Korean Laws. 14 May 2014. Retrieved 2017-01-03.
  19. ^ "국가상징 > 태극기 > 태극기 더보기 > 국기의 제작". Retrieved 9 January 2018.
  20. ^ a b "National Flag". The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Moscow. Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  21. ^ 대한민국국기법 시행령 [The law concerning practice for the flag of the Republic of Korea] (in Korean). Government of the Republic of Korea. Retrieved August 6, 2017.
  22. ^ Stray_Cat421 (June 18, 2003). "Standard specification of Taegukgi". (in Korean). South Korea. Retrieved March 1, 2015.
  23. ^ a b c 국기의 제작 [Geometry of the National Flag] (in Korean). Ministry of the Interior and Safety. 2017. Retrieved 2017-08-06.

External linksEdit