South Korea’s national flag – the Taegeukki – is one of the most distinctive around, and is heavily imbued with philsophical meaning. The design itself has changed a little since its first unveiling in the 1880s, though its fundamental elements remain the same: a red-and-blue circle surrounded by four black trigams, all set on a white background. The puritanical connotations of the white are obvious, whereas the circle and trigrams offer greater food for thought. The four trigams make up half of the eight used in the I Ching, an ancient Chinese book of divination. Each can represent a number of different concepts: moving clockwise from the top-left of the flag, these may be read as spring, winter, summer and autumn; heaven, moon, earth and sun; father, son, mother and daughter; as well as many more besides.

The circle is split into the “Yin–Yang” shape, its two halves representing opposites such as light and dark, male and female, day and night. Though coincidental, connections with the divided Korean peninsula are easy to find, with two opposing halves forming part of the same whole – the red half is even on top.

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South Korea features

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Seoul food: the transformation of a neighbourhood

Seoul food: the transformation of a neighbourhood

Itaewon, a neighbourhood in the South Korean capital Seoul, is on the up and food is at the forefront of its renaissance. Here Amy Guttman explores a district u…

14 Jan 2016 • Amy Guttman insert_drive_file Article
Would you get down and dirty at South Korea’s Mud Festival?

Would you get down and dirty at South Korea’s Mud Festival?

What once began as a marketing ploy for a therapeutic mud found near Boryeong, a small city on South Korea’s sandy west coast, has since transformed into a un…

17 Jul 2015 • Colt St. George insert_drive_file Article
In pictures: traditional dress around the world

In pictures: traditional dress around the world

The Sari, India Ostensibly the simplest item of clothing possible – a single length of fabric, up to nine metres long – the sari is also one of the world…

02 Feb 2015 • Alice Park camera_alt Gallery
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