Taegeukgi: Its design symbolizes the principles of the yin and yang in oriental philosophy. The circle in the center is divided into two equal parts, where the upper red responds to the active cosmic forces of the yang; conversely, the lower blue section represents the passive cosmic forces of the yin. The flag's background is white, representing Korean’s desire for peace and purity. The circle is surrounded by four trigrams, one in each corner, characterizing continual movement, balance and harmony. Each trigram symbolizes one of the four universal elements (heaven, earth, fire, and water).
Mugunghwa: The national flower of Korea is mugunghwa, or rose of Sharon, which comes into bloom from July to October every year. Profusions of the blossom gracefully decorate the entire nation during that time, providing a view which has been loved by all Korean for many years. It is also the favorite plant of the people as the flower’s symbolic significance stems from the Korean word ‘mugung’, meaning immortality. This word accurately reflects the enduring nature of Korean culture, and the determination and perseverance of the Korean people.
Aegukga: Aegukga literally means 'a song expressing one’s love towards their country' in Korean, and that was the exact reason this anthem came to be born. Since its creation, the song has undergone several versions of transition; however, it remained focused on praising the sense of loyalty to the country. Maestro AhnEak-tai (1905-1965) is credited with having made the present form of the song in 1935, which was then officially adopted by the Korean Government (1948) as the national anthem and began to be used at all schools and official functions.
Population of Korea
The total population of Korea is approximately 51,634,618 (July 2016 data) with most of them residing in the Seoul metropolitan area. Outside of Seoul, other large and economically advanced cities such as Busan, Incheon, Daegu, Daejeon, Gwangju and Ulsan also have higher population densities than other cities in Korea.
Korean Langauge; Hangeul
Hangeul, one of the most indigenous and unique creations of the nation, was introduced in 1443 by King Sejong (1418-1450), the 4th king of the Joseon Dynasty. In order to help all commoners to easily read and write this new alphabet, Hunminjeongeum (meaning "Proper sounds to instruct the people" in Korean) was created. In 1910, the name of the language was changed to Hangeul, a term widely used today. Hangeul is a series of creative and scientifically designed characters. The alphabet is composed of basic consonants and vowels with a set sound each, with a dot or a line added to form more sounds. The 5 main consonants (ㄱ, ㄴ, ㅅ, ㅁ, ㅇ) imitate the shape the lips and tongue make when producing that particular sound, while the 3 main vowels (ㆍ, ㅡ, ㅣ) symbolize the sky, the earth and mankind respectively. Originally composed of 17 consonants and 11 vowels, only 14 consonants and 10 vowels are used in modern Hangeul. Hangeul, as a written language, did not have any influence from pre-existing writing systems. The language is very easy for all to learn, evidenced by Korea's illiteracy rates being one of the lowest in the world. Of all Korea's cultural assets, the citizens are most proud of Hangeul and thus designated every October 9th as Hangeul Day, to memorialize and celebrate the invention of the alphabet. In addition, UNESCO inscribed HunminjeongeumHaerye; The Hangeul Manuscript, on the Memory of the World Register in 1997.
Korea’s Traditional Costume, Hanbok
Hanbok is the traditional attire of the Korean people. Worn daily up until just 100 years ago, these days it is only worn on festive occasions or special anniversaries. It is a formal dress and most Koreans keep a hanbok for special times in their life. While the traditional hanbok was beautiful in its own right, the design has changed slowly but surely over the generations. The core of hanbok is its graceful shape and vibrant colors, which have had a major impact on the modern fashion industry. It is hard to think of hanbok as everyday wear but it is slowly being revolutionized through the changing of fabrics, colors and features, reflecting the public's desires. Many aspiring hanbok designers have altered hanbok for everyday wear with traditional elements at the basis of the garment but having a distinct modern feel.
Traditional Korean Food
Hansik refers to traditional Korean food, centered around rice, served alongside a bowl of soup and a variety of side dishes. Most foods use meat and vegetables as the main ingredients, and are soaked in a brine or water rather than fried in oil, making hansik wonderful for ones health. More than anything else, hansik’s most outstanding feature is the amount of fermented foods, which are beneficial in improving digestion, as well as preventing cancer. The most well-known fermented foods are kimchi (fermented cabbage), ganjang (soy sauce), doenjang (soybean paste), and gochujang (Korean chili paste). Popular dishes among international eaters include bulgogi, bibimbap, and royal cuisine. Bulgogi is a marinated beef or sometimes pork dish that is sweet and tender in texture. In particular, the soy sauce seasoning is not spicy, thus making it a great introduction dish to hansik. Bibimbap, on the other hand, is a complete meal in and of itself, mixing rice with all kinds of condiments of one's choice, topped with gochujang for that extra kick. Royal cuisine is a full course meal, including at least 12 different sides and desserts in addition to soups, steamed foods, and hot pots. Because royal food was originally served to the kings and queens, it is the ultimate in Korean culinary arts.
Traditional Korean Houses
Hanok refers to houses built in the traditional Korean style. While tile-roofed and thatch-roofed hanoks were equally common, the former are typically be noblemen residences while the latter were mostly houses of the commoners’ in the past. These days, most people who are still living in such traditional tile-roofed hanok have modern facilities installed within.
There are two main charms to hanoks. The first is the unique heating system of 'ondol.' A layer of stone is laid down above the flooring and when heated, the heat spreads up into every room throughout the house, keeping both the floor and the air surprisingly warm in winter.
The use of ondol has influenced the Korean culture today as many Koreans continue to live the lifestyle of sleeping or sitting on the floor instead of lying on beds and sofas. This is also mostly due to the Korean custom for people to take off their shoes when entering a Korean home.
The second attractive point to hanok houses is that they are environmentally-friendly. The materials needed to build a hanok house are free from chemicals, making it a good healthy environment. The columns, rafters, doors, windows, and floor are wooden, while the walls are a mixture of straw and dirt. The paper to cover the frames of doors and windows were made from tree pulp. As the building materials used are all natural, hanok houses have excellent breathability, perfect for escaping the summer heat. It is also said to help in the treatment of atopic dermatitis and other modern skin diseases.
Traditional Korean Music
Koreans have the unique characteristic of lyrical sensibility, using music to express their emotions. Traditional Korean music can be divided into music listened by the royal family and by the commoners, each differing greatly in style.
JongmyoJeryeak, royal ancestral ritual music, the representative royal court music and played during ancestral rites, was solumn and splendid. In contrast, the commoners who wished to overcome the difficulties of the working class usually sang folk songs and pansori, a traditional Korean music that narrates a themed story. With a distinct, inimitable sound, rhythm, and singing technique, pansori was designated as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by the UNESCO.
Traditional Korean music has also greatly influenced Korean pop music. Recently, there is a growing trend of fusion art troupes where traditional Korean music is combined with contemporary music. Performances such as 'Nanta' and 'Gugak B-boy', were created through the mix of traditional Korean rhythms and rock music. Such fusion music has since been receiving attention both locally and abroad, highlighting Korea's important cultural code to the world.