The story of Dangun

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<Picture from Google>

This is a founding story of Korea and plays an important role to keep the identity of Korea. Dangun’s story is in an old Korean history book called “The stories of three kingdoms” written in 1281. The story is following this.  “There was Hwanung, a son of a heavenly god who was interested in governing the Human world. He came down to the earth with three gods, three marks of kings, and 3000 followers. The three gods were a god of rain, a god of clouds, and a god of wind. All are related to agriculture. It is not clear yet what the three marks are. Hwanung built a town called Sinsi (a city of god) and governed it.  A tiger and a bear lived near by the city of god and they wanted to human and live there. So they prayed to a heavenly god to transform them into humans. Hwanung heard their prayers and appeared in front of them. Hwanung gave them 20 mystical cloves of garlic and a bundle of mugwort while instructing them that if they ate only these vegetables and avoided sunshine for 100 days, they would become human. The tiger gave up after 20 days but the bear accomplished the task. So the bear became a woman named Ungnyo, or a bearwoman.  After she became a human, she wanted to have a baby so she prayed for it to Hwanung under a sacred tree. Hwanung answered her wish by becoming a man so he could marry her. Ungnyo had a baby and gave birth under the sacred tree. Dangun is that baby.  The name Dangun means a man of a birch tree.  Dangun established Gojoseon, the ancient kingdom of Korea. He governed it for 1500 years before he went to a mountain becoming an immortal god.

The story of Dangun tells us that Korean people originated from the combination of two tribes: A tribe worshiped the heavenly God, Hwanung and a tribe that worshiped the bear. Recently Chinese government excavated a remains from the New Stone Age in Manzuria area, northern China. The remains contains the symbols of Bear Totem. Since then, some South Korean historians have urged the story of Dangun is a real history. Also according to Mongolian scholars and some Korean scholars, the story of Hwanung is related to the Epic of King Geser, the founder of Mongolia and Tibet.  So the origin of the Korean people could go much beyond the Korean peninsula.

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Secret State of North Korea

Secret State of North Korea

This is a video clip about North Korea showed in PBS in Jan 14th. I think it is good video and worthy to see if you are interested in North Korea. While I was watching this video, I thought several things. 

1) North Korea rein has been weaken. If north Korean people violate the regulations more and more for their living, North Korea could be collapsed. So it would be better to help people’s violation than to dream a rebellion. Rebellion is so dangerous ask to North Korean people.
2) The hatred of North Korea toward America is amplified with propagation but it is not baseless. America played an important role in the division of Korea and the Korean wars. Trusteeship of North and South separately in Korean peninsula was not Korean people’s wish. In the trusteeship of South Korea, American military hired pro-Japanese people who should be punished by their immoral behavior during Japanese occupation period and let them kill mass of people by the name of removal of communists. During the Korean war there was horrible genocide by both sides army. Unfortunately, America’s army is also not free from the genocide.
3) Family punishment was very common in Korean history because Korea is a family-based society. So it should be understood in the cultural back ground. Even in South Korea, there was a difference of the degree, it was lasted two-three decades ago. Especially after the war, once one of your family member is accused of being a communist, whole family was blamed as communists and suffered trouble.
I hope the suffering of the starving orphans and north Korean people ends soon.Secret 

Basic introduction to Religions in Korea

The origin of Korean culture can be traced back to nomadic civilizations in central Asia. We thus find in Korean religious traditions related to Siberian shamanism, worship centered on heaven and traditions of self-cultivation as a tradition of training. Beginning around the second century before the common era,through the importation of the Chinese writing system, Koreans were able to adapt Sinitic religions, philosophies, cultural artifacts, and institutions, resulting in a total transformation of Korean culture. It was during this period that Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoist elements took root in Korea.

These three religions co-existed with shamanism for most of Korean history prior to the establishment of the Joseon dynasty in 1392. The Joseon Dynasty championed Neo-Confucianism as its philosophy of governance and officially suppressed Buddhism and shamanism. Though censored by the Korean state, Buddhism and Shamanism were able to survive through the support of female believers. The late Joseon dynasty witnessed the transmission of several forms of Christianity. Catholicism was introduced in 1631 and Protestantism was transmitted in 1884. This transmission also precipitated major changes in Korean culture and religion.

According to the 2005 Korean census,  53.08% of the population claims to be religious. 22.8% are Buddhist,29.26% are Christian (Protestantism makes up18.32%, Catholicism comprises 10.94%), 0.44% are Confucian, and other various religions amount to 1%. The activities of Christian is more active than Buddhist, so you will meet more Christian than Buddhism in Korea.

Tagukgi : The Korean Flag

             The Korean flag became national flag in 1883 after the Korean empire was established.  The white background represents  Korean people. The Korean people have been called “white cloth folks” due to their fondness for wearing white cloth. Furthermore, the white background also signifies purity.

The Symbols found in the flag is wholly based on the worldview found in the Iching as articulated by Neo-Confucianism. The circle located in the center called, referred to as Taeguk in Korean, represents  two forms of energy in the cosmos:  Yin & Yang .All nature phenomena arise through the mutual interaction of these two forces. The red portion symbolizes Yang, heaven and light.The blue portion symbolizes Yin, the earth and darkness. The four sticks surrounding the circle, collectively referred to as Sague in Korean, signifies Heaven, Earth, the Sun, and the Moon, beginning from the upper left corner and moving clockwise. Within this symbolism is the hope that Korea will be eternal and have a bright future.

The symbolism of the flag illustrates the historical importance of Confucianism for the Korean state. Neo-confucianism was a philosophy especially well-adapted for governing the country. During the Joseon Dynasty,Korean kept Confucian’s values over 500 years. The essential value is the three cardinal guides and the five moral rules in human relationship. Three guides are a king  guides a subject, a father guides children, a husband guides a wife. Five moral rules in human relationship: Between parents and children, there must be intimacy. Between ruler and a subject, there must be loyalty. Between a husband and a wife, there must be distinction. Between the old and the young, there must be hierarchy.Between friends, there must be trust. These values are still rooted in Korean society.

Hangul : Korean language

Korean has their own language system. They had own spoken language for a long time but they didn’t have their own written language until  1446. The King Sejong, famous for the wisest king in Korean history made Korean Alphabet called Hunminjeonum(now we called it as a Hangul). The meaning of the name is the appropriate sound for teaching people.

The Korean Alphabet is consist in 3 essential vowels, 5 essential consonants and its extended vowels and consonants.  Three vowels was patterned after Heaven( · ), Earth(ㅡ), and  human(ㅣ)  and five consonants was patterned after the shape of vocal organs. Heaven, Earth, and human is three essential elements in the world. This theory is based on Confucianism’s thought. The chart on the left side is the basic combination of Korean alphabet. Korean Kids memorize this when they start to learn Korean alphabets.

The basic word order of Korean language is Subject, Verb, and Object.  In Korean structure, an element of sentence was omitted a lot. This language is not logical like English but it has abundant word for expressing emotion and colors.

Recently, the TV show treated on the story of making Hangul was made. The title is “Tree with deep root.”  You can find this show in Hulu.com (http://www.hulu.com/watch/297395#x-0,vepisode,1,0)

Where is Korea?

     Korea is located in the eastern end of Asia, between China and Japan.  Geographically, the Korean peninsula was a bridge between the two countries.  Advanced culture was transmitted to Japan through Korea  from continental Asia, including religions, philosophies, cultural artifacts, and institutions.

Though the location helped Korea to acquire the latest cultural innovations, the peninsula was simultaneously exposed to many invasions from China and Japan.  There were three times big invasion from China and one time invasion from Japan.  The first fighting between Korea and China 645CE, that time Kogurye, one of three kingdom dynasty defeated. The second one was a Mongolian invasion  from 1231 to 1259. The invasion time was counted  from 6 to 9 times. As you know Jinghis Khan’s notorious,  their invasion was continued until Koryo Dynasty surrendered.  Some sholars urged that Korea was a Shield of invasion to Japan. Especially, Mongol was exhausted their military power from several times of fighting with Korea.  The third one was Ching Dynasty in 1623 and 1637 Dec two times.  From the late Koryo Dynasty period 13CE, Japan started bothering Korea. was watching for an opportunity  to expand their territory to the continent. after 13CE. Therefore, Korea had a problem on that, too.  In such a tough situation, Korean always struggled to keep their own culture.  With Korean’s effort, they keep their own culture though they got lots of influence from China.

p.s : Korea is divided south and north in present days, as you know.  North Korea supports communism and South Korea supports capitalism.  After they were divided in two, they cultivated their own style. But they use the same language and share a same ancient history.