The national flag of South Korea is also known as the Taeugukgi (also spelled Taegeukgi). The South Korea flag features a white background, four black trigrams, and a Taeguk in the center. The original version of Taeugukgi was created January 27, 1883 and was traditionally used as the national flag of the Korean Empire.
The white background on the flag represents the purity and peace of the South Korean nation. The red and blue Taeugukgi in the middle of the flag represents the balance of the universe. The circle is divided equal to represent a perfect yin and yang. The red symbolizes positive cosmic forces, while the blue represents negative cosmic forces; Each oppose each other to create a perfect balance. The four trigrams represent the elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. These four trigrams denote other meanings including justice, fruition, wisdom, and vitality, and the four virtues: humanity, justice, intelligence and courtesy.
Prior to 1876, the creation of a Korean flag was considered unimportant by the government. In 1880, Chinese delegate Huang Zunxian proposed to use the Quin Dynasty for the Josean Dynasty; This issue was explored little, but it was quickly shelved for some time after that.
During discussion of the United State-Korea Treaty of 1882, the flag controversy arose again. Ma Jianzhong argued against utilizing the Quin Dynasty flag, and proposed the building blocks of what is now considered South Korea’s national flag. August 22nd, 1882, Park Yeong-hyo created the first model of Taegukgi ever used in the Japanese Empire. In 1883, it was deemed the official flag of the Josean government.
Before the separation of North and South Korea, Teagukgi was used to represent the entire country. After division of North and South, two separate flags were used. On October 15, 1949, Taegukgi was deemed official by the government.
Although Taegukgi has been used since the late 1800’s as a national flag in Korea, its exact color specifications did not emerge until October 1997. During that year, in the “Ordinance Act of the Law concerning the National Flag of the Republic of Korea,” color specifications were made mandatory by law.