The taegeuk found on the flag of South Korea
Korean name
Revised RomanizationTaegeuk

Taegeuk (Korean태극; Hanja太極, Korean pronunciation: [tʰɛgɯk̚]) is a Sino-Korean term meaning "supreme ultimate", although it can also be translated as "great polarity / duality".[1][2] The term and its overall concept is derived from the Chinese Taiji, popularised in the west as the Yin and Yang. The symbol was chosen for the design of the Korean national flag in the 1880s. It substitutes the black and white color scheme often seen in most taijitu illustrations with blue and red, respectively, along with a horizontal separator, as opposed to vertical.

South Koreans commonly refer to their national flag as taegeuk-gi (태극기), where gi () means "flag" or "banner".[3] This particular color-themed taegeuk symbol is typically associated with Korean traditions and represents balance in the universe; the red half represents positive cosmic forces, and the blue half represents the complementary or opposing, negative cosmic forces. It is also used in Korean shamanism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.[4][5]


The taegeuk diagram has been existent for the majority of written Korean history.[6] The origins of the interlocking-sinusoid design in Korea can be traced to as early as the Goguryeo or Silla period, e.g. in the decoration of a sword, dated to the 5th or 6th century, recovered from the grave of Michu of Silla,[7] or an artifact with the taegeuk pattern of similar age found in the Bogam-ri tombs of Baekje at Naju, South Jeolla Province in 2008.[8][9] In the compound of Gameunsa, a temple built in AD 628 during the reign of King Jinpyeong of Silla, a stone object, perhaps the foundation of a pagoda, is carved with the taegeuk design.[3][10]

In Gojoseon, the ancient kingdom of Joseon, the design was used to express the hope for harmony of yin and yang.[3][11] It is likely due to the earliest spread of ancient Chinese culture in Gojoseon, especially during the early Zhou dynasty.[12]

Today the taegeuk is usually associated with Korean tradition and represents balance in the universe, as mentioned in the previous section (red is ; yang, or positive cosmic forces, and blue is ; yin, or negative cosmic forces). Among its many religious connotations (Korean Confucianism; Taoism in Korea; Korean Buddhism), the taegeuk is also present in Korean shamanism.[4][5]

South Korea's national flag

The Flag of South Korea, also known as the Taegeukgi (Korean: 태극기), has a blue and red taegeuk in the center.

The taegeuk symbol is most prominently displayed in the center of South Korea's national flag, called the Taegeukgi, literally taegeuk flag (along with four of the eight trigrams used in divination). Because of the Taegeuk's association with the national flag, it is often used as a patriotic symbol, as are the colors red, blue, and black.

Though the taegeuk and the trigrams have been used since the earliest periods of Korean history, its use had started earlier in China.[13]

The taegeuk is a Confucian icon which symbolizes cosmic balance, and represents the constant interaction between the yin and yang, also known as eum/yang (Korean음양; Hanja陰陽).[14][13] The taegeuk symbol used on the flag originated from the Chinese Confucian classic known as The Book of Changes (also known as I Ching or Yijing), a book developed for use in divination.[15][16]

The four trigrams also originated from the I Ching; each of these trigrams represent specific Confucian virtues, cosmic elements, or family roles, in addition to seasons, compass directions, etc.[13][14][16] The ; geon trigram (☰) represents the heaven (sky), summer, south, father, and justice. The ; gon trigram (☷) symbolizes the earth (ground), winter, north, mother, and vitality, the ; gam trigram (☵) the moon, autumn, west, 2nd (or middle) son, and wisdom, and the ; ri trigram (☲) the sun, spring, east, 2nd (or middle) daughter, and fruition. The four trigrams supposedly move in an endless cycle from "geon" to "ri" to "gon" to "gam" and back to "geon" in their pursuit of perfection.[17]

The white background symbolizes the homogeneity, integrity and purity of the Korean people. For thousands of years, Korean people nearly exclusively wore white clothing. This eventually led to the rise of the nickname "white-clothed people" for Koreans. Therefore, the colour white is often considered associated with the Korean people.[18][6][17]


Tricolored taegeuk

Hand fan with a tricolored taegeuk design

A variant in South Korea is the tricolored taegeuk (sam·saeg·ui tae·geuk 삼색의 태극 or sam·tae·geuk 삼태극), which adds a yellow lobe or pa (; ). The yellow portion is taken as representing humanity, in addition to the red and blue representing earth and heaven, respectively.

A rendition of the tricolored taegeuk also appeared in the official logo of the 1988 Summer Olympics accompanied by the five Olympic rings.[19]

Paralympics symbol

Further information: Paralympic symbols

First Paralympic symbol (1988–1994) used five pa.

The first designated Paralympic logo, created for the 1988 Summer Paralympics in Seoul, was based on the traditional pa, the spiral or sinusoid components making up the taegeuk symbol. In March 1992,[20] the Paralympic symbol was changed to a version utilizing only three pa. This was not fully adopted until after the 1994 Winter Paralympics in Lillehammer, Norway, since the Lillehammer Paralympic Organizing Committee had by then already started a marketing program based on the five-pa version. The three-pa version remained in place from the close of the Lillehammer Games through the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens, Greece.[21][22] The current Paralympic symbol has morphed the teardrop-shaped pa into more of a swoosh, but still employs three such colour swatches, one each of red, blue, and green.

Miss Asia Pacific World

The logo for the Miss Asia Pacific World Beauty Pageant, which began in Seoul, South Korea in 2011, is another example of the tricolored taegeuk symbol.


See also


  1. ^ Gukgiwon (국기원) (2005). Taekwondo textbook. Seoul: 오성출판사. p. 303. ISBN 9788973367504. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  2. ^ Rogers, William Elford (1994). Interpreting Interpretation: Textual Hermeneutics as an Ascetic Discipline. University Park, Pa: Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 303. ISBN 9780271010618. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Korean overseas information service (2003). Handbook of Korea (11. ed.). Seoul: Korean Overseas Information Service. p. 568. ISBN 9788973750054. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b Kim, Sang Yil; Ro, Young Chan (1984). Hanism as Korean mind : interpretation of Han philosophy. Los Angeles, Calif.: Eastern Academy of Human Sciences. p. 66. ISBN 0932713009. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  5. ^ a b Korea's Sam-Taegeuk Symbol. san-shin.org, dedicated to the sacred mountains of Korea.
  6. ^ a b Islam, M. Rafiqul (2014). Unconventional Gas Reservoirs: Evaluation, Appraisal, and Development. Elsevier. p. 352. ISBN 9780128005941. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  7. ^ Proceedings of the International Symposium on Cultivation and Utilization of Asian, Sub-tropical, and Underutilized Horticultural Crops: Seoul, Korea, August 13–19, 2006 (2011), p. 48
  8. ^ 국내 最古 태극무늬, 1400년 만에 햇빛 Dong-A Science, Yoon wan-jun, 2009-06-04
  9. ^ "Oldest Taegeuk Pattern Found in Naju". The Korea Times. 2009-06-03. Retrieved 2013-01-12.
  10. ^ 경주감은사지 Encyclopedia of Korea
  11. ^ An Illustrated Guide to Korean Culture - 233 traditional key words by The National Academy of the Korean Language
  12. ^ Yoon, Hong-key (2006). The culture of fengshui in Korea : an exploration of East Asian geomancy. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-5385-7. OCLC 607859287.
  13. ^ a b c Confucianism, a habit of the heart. Philip J. Ivanhoe, Sungmoon Kim. Albany. 2016. p. 4. ISBN 978-1-4384-6014-7. OCLC 936547932.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ a b Prescott, Anne (2015). East Asia in the world : an introduction. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7656-4321-6. OCLC 894625952.
  15. ^ 한국학의과제와전망: Yesul, sasang, sahoepʻyŏn. Vol. 2. 한국정신문화연구원. 國際協力室. 한국정신문화연구원. 1988. p. 297.((cite book)): CS1 maint: others (link)
  16. ^ a b Taylor, Insup; Taylor, M. Martin (1995-12-07). Writing and Literacy in Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Studies in Written Language and Literacy. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. p. 145. doi:10.1075/swll.3. ISBN 978-90-272-1794-3.
  17. ^ a b Ludden, Ken (2010). Mystic Apprentice Volume 3: Meditative Skills with Symbols and Glyphs Supplemental. Lulu.com. p. 131. ISBN 9780557728503. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  18. ^ 박, 성수. "백의민족 (白衣民族)" [The White Clothed People]. Encyclopedia of Korean Culture (in Korean). Retrieved 2023-09-29.
  19. ^ "Olympic Games Seoul 1988". Olympics.
  20. ^ Vom Rehabilitationssport zu den Paralympics Archived 2012-03-05 at the Wayback Machine (German), Sportmuseum Leipzig
  21. ^ "New Logo and Motto for IPC". International Paralympic Committee. 2003. Archived from the original on 6 April 2008. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  22. ^ International Paralympic Committee - The IPC logo, motto and flag, CRWFlags.com