The Republic of Korea is a small country on the far eastern edge of Asia.
Although it ranks 109th in the world in terms of land area, the country is a center of economic, cultural, and arts activity. Korea was colonized by Japan in the early 20th century and later had to endure the Korean War (1950-53), but since that time it has achieved amazing economic growth in a short period, dubbed "the Miracle on the Hangang River."
Today, Korea is an industrial nation standing tall on the world stage. Its semiconductor, automobile, shipbuilding, steel making, and IT industries are on the leading edge in global markets. In 1988, it was host of the Seoul 1988 Summer Olympics and in 2002, it hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan. More recently, Korean dramas, movies, and music have been attracting a wide audiences throughout Asian countries and beyond, creating what is being called the "Korean Wave". Korea‘s next international event is 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.
National Flag (Taegeukgi)
The design symbolizes the principles of the yin and yang forces in Asian philosophy.
The red and blue circle respectively represents the proactive cosmic forces of the yang and yin.
The two forces together embody the concepts of continual movement, balance and harmony that characterize the sphere of infinity. The trigrams on each corner of the rectangular flag symbolize each of the four universal element: heaven, earth, water and fire.
Korean Language (Hangeul)
Hangeul was invented by King Sejong, the fourth king of the Joseon Dynasty era.
Considered to be one of the greatest rulers of Korea, King Sejong continues to be deeply respected by the Korean people. He was born in 1397 as the third son to King Taejong, and ascended to the throne in 1418. After coming to the throne, he achieved noteworthy results for Korea in all fields, including politics, the economy and culture.
King Sejong loved his people more than any other king. In the 10th year of his reign, an incident occurred where a man killed his own father. After hearing about this unfortunate event, he wrote a 'Hyohaengrok', or a book on filial piety to awaken his people on this issue.
In the 14th year of his reign, he ordered the law to be translated into 'Idu', a system where a combination of Chinese characters is used with special symbols, in order to indicate Korean verb endings and other grammatical markers. Sympathizing with his people, he decided to create a new alphabet that would lessen their frustration related to learning Hanmun, or Chinese writing. Chinese characters, which were used to express Hanmun, were ideographs, not phonetic symbols. They were not suitable for expressing the sounds of the Korean language and thus, a new phonetic writing system was considered necessary. This is where the foundation of Hangeul came about.
While creating the new writing system, King Sejong was confronted with opposition from the ruling class. His subjects, including Choi Man-ri, objected to his decision, stating that the creation of a new writing system not only went against the spirit of serving Great China, but also posed the possibility of the common people threatening the vested rights of the ruling class. As King Sejong wrote in the foreword of Hunminjeongeum, Hangeul is a result of his sympathy for his people who had difficulties clearly expressing their thoughts and needs. He was a king who dearly loved his people. The quality of Hangeul has been extensively studied and praised by experts worldwide. In 1989, UNESCO initiated the King Sejong Literacy Prize, which is awarded to an individual or group, which contributes to the crusade against illiteracy. In addition, UNESCO selected the Hunminjungeum Explanation Book as a Memory of the World in 1997.
Korean Taste (Hansik)
Korea has developed its own unique cuisines with both variety and taste. Kimchi is undoubtedly the best known food: it has been scientifically proven to be highly nutritious and many claim it as healthy and therapeutic food. Nowadays it is becoming a popular culinary item on dinner tables worldwide. Some of the most popular Korean dishes include "Bulgogi“ (grilled marinated beef or pork), "Galbi" (grilled barbequed Spare ribs), and of course “Bibimbab" (rice mixed with an assortment of lightly cooked vegetables and minced beef.)
Traditional Clothing (Hanbok)
The design symbolizes the principles of the yin and yang forces in Asian philosophy. The red and blue circle respectively represents the proactive cosmic forces of the yang and yin. The two forces together embody the concepts of continual movement, balance and harmony that characterize the sphere of infinity. The trigrams on each corner of the rectangular flag symbolize each of the four universal element: heaven, earth, water and fire.
Korean Wave (Hallyu)
Hallyu, or Korean Wave, refers to the Korean pop culture phenomenon that is gaining great popularity around the world. It began with Korean dramas and movies gaining popularity in Asia, but in recent years, Korean pop music (K-pop music) has become the world’s hottest music industry. If in Korea, be sure to visit sets and filming locations and also experience diverse aspects of the Korean pop culture.