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.

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.

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.