Three-Legged Bird to Replace Phoenix on State Seal

    January 16, 2006 18:21

    The mythical three-legged bird shown in this Koguryo-era mural is being considered as a replacement for the phoenix to symbolize Korea on the new seal of state. The grip of Korea’s new seal of state, which will go into use in 2008, is likely to be crafted in the shape of the mythical three-legged bird Samjoko that lives in the center of the sun -- a potentially controversial choice since the mythical creature is already claimed as the formal emblem of Japan's national football team.

    The government commissioned a new seal after the discovery of hairline cracks in the current one and started to accept public suggestion. It said suggestions to fashion the handle in the shape of the Samjoko made up the biggest single group. One supporter of the bird even gathered 600 signatures in support. Other suggestions were a phoenix, a dragon or a white tiger, as well as the shape of the Korean Peninsula. The grip of the current seal depicts two phoenixes side-by-side. For the character type to be carved on the government’s official stamp, most recommended the Hunminjeongeum style-- the Korean alphabet as used when King Sejong invented it in 1446 -- with fewer suggestions for the style of King Kwanggaeto the Great inscriptions.

    Advocates of the three-legged bird say that murals from the ancient Koguryo Kingdom show the fabled beast was the highest symbol of power, even controlling the dragon, the symbol of China, and the phoenix, the symbol of Korea. Three-legged birds are also seen on Egyptian wall paintings, and both China and Japan have myths related to the such creatures.

    The ministry will submit 55 suggestions next month. The shape and type will be decided by August and a winning design announced next January. The new seal of state is to be complete by January 2008.

    The seal is used on the proclamations of constitutional revisions, diplomatic documents including ratification of treaties in the name of president, letters of appointment of government officials and on certificates for decorations or medals. The new seal will be the fourth following one cast when the Republic was founded, one in 1963 and the current one in 1999. The cracks were discovered in an examination by the Board of Audit and Inspection in 2004.

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