Discovery of Old Flag Discredits 'Taegukgi' Legend

    January 26, 2004 20:39

    On the left is the ‘national flag of Chosun’ printed in Japanese newspaper ‘Jijishinpo’ on Oct. 2, 1882. One in the right is the "national flag of Goryeo" mentioned in a diplomatic document of the Ching Dynasty, dated March 1883.
    The oldest picture of a “Taegukgi,” the national flag of Korea, has been discovered, giving insight into how the flag’s symbols came to be used. The Taegukgi was found in the “Flags of Maritime Nations,” issued by the U.S. Navy Department’s Bureau of Navigation in July 1882, and with its red and blue yin-yang symbol and four black trigrams has the same form as the current Korean flag.

    This Taegukgi would be two or three months older than the one used by Park Yeong-hyo, who is known as the first to make and use a four-trigram flag. Park did so during a diplomatic mission to Japan from August to September of 1882.

    In the foreword of “Flags of Maritime Nations,” it is written that the U.S. Senate voted on July 19, 1882 to make 3,000 copies of the book and distribute among government bodies. If so, than the Korean flag depicted in it would have been in use at least two or three months prior to the printing of the book. This would decisively discredit the popularly held belief that Park Yeong-hyo made the first Taegukgi.
    The oldest Taegukgi, the national flag of Korea, was found. This version is listed in ‘Flags of Maritime Nations,’ published by the Bureau of Navigation at the U.S. Navy Department in July 1882. This version uses the four trigrams from the Book of Changes. Until now, Park Yeong-hyo was known as the first person to use four trigrams from the Book of Changes. The flag was published two or three months before Park moved to Japan.
    In March 1883, the Taegukgi was formally adopted as the Korean national flag.

    Kim Weon-mo, an honorary professor at Dankook University and an expert on the Korean flag, said that the one found in Flags of Maritime Nations is presumed to be one displayed when the Treaty of Chemulpo between Korea’s Chosun Dynasty and the United States was signed on May 22, 1882.

    The oldest picture of the Korean flag was a black-and-white drawing found in the October 10, 1882 edition of the Japanese newspaper, Jijishinpo. It is labeled as the Chosun flag.

    Flags of Maritime Nations lists color pictures of flags from 49 nations in alphabetical order. The Taegukgi is listed in a column to the right of Qing China’s flag in a column titled “Corea.”
    (Yu Seok-jae,
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