Yin yang and trigrams
Korea did not have any national flag before the issue was raised by the negotiations for the Japan–Korean Treaty in 1876. Despite some endeavours, the subject was not taken into account by the government. However, the multiplication of international negotiations, from 1880, showed clearly the need for a national flag. After several proposals, the government officially declared that the yin-yang (Taiji) symbol had to be used within the national flag.
When the division of Korea into northern and southern parts occurred, two flags started to appear. The northern flag was officially adopted in 1948 and the southern one in 1949.
The flag of South Korea appeared for the first time in 1882. It represents two axes, each joining two specific trigrams (Heaven and Earth, Fire and Water) and intersecting at the centre of the famous yin-yang symbol. As red and blue constitute two extreme colours of the visible light spectrum, the flag can only refer to opposites unified within the white colour used as background. As such, the South Korean flag deeply reflects the Eastern views, which are still occurring today.
The South Korean flag symbolizes the fundamental complement of yin and yang. Taking root in the famous yin-yang symbol it is distinctively manifested within the Cosmic world as trigrams. Ordered according to the circular representation, they characterize the relationships between yang and yin at all levels of opposed trigrams as shown in the Fu hi diagram.
The yin-yang symbol represents the “Primeval One” of principles which can not be separated as yang is always associated with yin and yin to yang. Constantly interrelated, they constitute, through their mutual interactions, the source of the entire manifestation and its development. Therefore, the South Korean flag does not only depict the basic principles, but also the way to go from the potential to the actual.