June 3

Korean Cultural Symbolic Icons

Written by
Annyeong India

Every country has its national symbols, just like South Korea has its national symbols which are official and unofficial symbols, flags, icons or cultural expressions that are representative characteristics of South Korea.

Let’s find out about some South Korea’s National Symbols

Korean hangul

Credit : Meridian Linguistics

Hangul is the Korean alphabet created by King Sejong the Great (1397-1450) in 1443 during the Joseon Era (1392-1910) . Before the invention Hanja was (Chinese Characters) used by the people but it was difficult for the non elite or ordinary people to learn, so to ease it King Sejong The Great created a new alphabet script called Hunminjeongeum.

Hunminjeongeum literally means ‘perfect sound to teach people’. Originally it had 28 letters, but only 24 letters remain at present , consisting of 14 consonants and 10 vowels.

The consonants were designed after the human vocal organ and the basic vowels were designed after the shape of heaven (o), earth (_) and human (I). Hangul is both scientific and unique and can be easily learnt by foreigners too. 



Credit : 90 days Korean

The national flag of South Korea is called Taegugki.  It was made in 1882 and became the national flag of The Republic of Korea in 1948. It is called Taegugki because it has a Taegeuk pattern at the centre.

Taegeuk represents a  universe that moves in harmony and equilibrium. The upper blue part (of the circle) is called yang and the lower red part yin. Yin and Yang represents energies that complement each other.

The four black trigrams at the corners of the flag represent the universe, heaven, earth, water, and fire.

The white pattern shows national traits of Korean people which shows they love brightness, purity and peace.




The national anthem of South Korea was written by Ahn Eak Ti in the early 20th century. It means ‘a song to love the country’.

During the Japanese colonial period it was secretly sung by Korean people who longed for independence and later at the the event of commemorating the foundation of The Republic Of Korea on August 15, 1948, the song was officially adopted as the national anthem of the country.

The lyrics of the National Anthem is mentioned below: 

1st verse
Until that day when Mt. Baekdu is worn away and the East Sea's waters run dry,
May God protect and preserve our country, long live.

Mugunghwa and three thousand ri full of splendid mountains and rivers;
Great Koreans, to the Great Korean way, always stay true.

2nd verse
As the pine atop Namsan Peak stands firm, unchanged through wind and frost,
as if wrapped in armour, so shall our resilient spirit.


3rd verse
The autumn skies are void and vast, high and cloudless;
the bright moon is like our heart, undivided and true.


4th verse
With this spirit and this mind, let us give all loyalty,
in suffering or joy, to love our nation.


Lyrics in Korean :

동해 물과 백두산이 마르고 닳도록,
하느님이 보우하사 우리나라 만세.

무궁화 삼천리 화려 강산,
대한 사람, 대한으로 길이 보전하세.

남산 위에 저 소나무 철갑을 두른 듯
바람서리 불변함은 우리 기상일세.


가을 하늘 공활한데 높고 구름 없이
밝은 달은 우리 가슴 일편단심일세.


이 기상과 이 맘으로 충성을 다하여
괴로우나 즐거우나 나라 사랑하세.





YES! The Mugunghwa (Hibiscus syriacus)  we heard in the movie ‘Squid Game’ represents Korea and in the language of flower it means ‘the flower that blooms’ Since ancient times Koreans have treasured it as the flower of Heaven.

China has described Korea as  the country of Mugunghwa for a long time. During the Joseon Era Mugunghwa was embedded on the bridal wear praying for fertility and affluence.

Mugungwha also applied for presidential awards and a badge for the national assembly. Additionally August 8th is celebrated as Mugugwha day as flower day.

Goryeo Celadon

Goryeo Celadon

Credit : Wikipedia

The pottery from The Goryeo Dynasty(918-1392) is called Goryeo Celadon for its greyish blue hue. Goryeo ware refers to all styles of Korean pottery and porcelain produced at some point of the Goryeo dynasty, from 918 to 1392, however most customarily refers to celadon.

Celadon strategies had been first brought from China; Goryeo potters hooked up a local fashion with the aid of using the twelfth century. One of those local patterns is characterised with the aid of using the Sanggam technique, a manner of inlaying that become particular to Goryeo celadon.

The Shadeation of the celadon, referred to as Bisaek for 'green', become additionally exceedingly admired. The enterprise arose and declined because the Goryeo dynasty developed. Many wares had been produced on the Gangjin Kiln Sites in southwestern Korea.

An artist of the post-conflict generation who specialised in Goryeo ware became Living National Treasure Yu Geun-Hyeong. His paintings become documented withinside the brief movie Koryo Celadon in 1979. Many celadon portions from Goryeo are indexed as National Treasures of South Korea.



Credit : Alphafoodie

Korea has a completely diverse meals subculture with many scrumptious foods, however while contemplating a meal that represents Korean meals, it needs to be kimchi. It is a conventional aspect dish that has usually been at the tables of Koreans.

In 2013, Kimjang (the subculture and method of creating kimchi) became named to UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. South Korea is positioned at the thirty eighth parallel, so it receives quite bloodless withinside the wintry weather and it's far frequently not possible to develop any veggies.

Therefore, earlier than the bloodless wintry weather comes, Koreans will use salt to keep veggies to devour all through the wintry weather, that is what's accomplished with kimchi, and that is the foundation of Korea`s fermented meals subculture. 

Today, kimchi has come to be well-known everywhere in the world. The highly spiced kimchi that may be utilised in a number of scrumptious dishes has been well-known with the aid of foodies everywhere in the world. 

Here is a quick easy recipe to make Kimchi :


(Makes about 4 pounds)

  • 3 pounds napa cabbage
  • 9 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons Chapssal garu (glutinous rice flour, aka sweet rice flour)
  • 1⅓ cup vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 9 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon peeled ginger
  • 1 medium onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 cup Gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes)
  • 6 ounces Korean radish, cut into matchsticks (about 1 cup), or daikon
  • 3 ounces Buchu (Asian chives, aka garlic chives), chopped (optional)
  • 6 green onions, sliced diagonally
  • 2 ounces carrot matchsticks (about ¼ cup)


Salt the cabbage:

  1. Cut the cabbage lengthwise into quarters. Cut away the core of each quarter.
  2. Cut the leaves crosswise into 1-to-1½ inch bite size pieces. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Toss with 6 tablespoons of the salt and 1 cup water.
  4. Let stand for 2 hours, tossing the cabbage every 30 minutes to salt evenly.

Make the kimchi paste:

  1. Combine the glutinous rice flour and 1 cup of the vegetable stock in a small saucepan and place over medium high heat.
  2. Stir until the mixture begins to bubble, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar and stir until the mixture is slightly translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool thoroughly.
  3. Put the cooled porridge, the remaining ⅓ cup vegetable stock, the remaining 3 tablespoons salt, the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar, garlic, ginger, and onion in a food processor and process to a puree.
  4. Transfer the puree to a medium bowl.
  5. Add the Gochugaru (hot pepper flakes) and mix it well and set aside.

Wash the salted cabbage:

  1. Rinse the cabbage 3 to 4 times with cold running water to remove any dirt and excess salt. Drain well.

Mix it all together and make kimchi:

  1. Well dry a large bowl with kitchen cloth.
  2. Add the cabbage, radish matchsticks, green onion, chives (if used), and carrot. Add the kimchi paste and mix all together by hand (wear disposable gloves if you like).
  3. Transfer to an airtight container or glass jars. Press down the on the kimchi so it’s well packed and no air can get inside, then put the lid on the container.




Taekwondo, Tae Kwon Do or Taekwon-Do is a Korean form of martial arts characterised with the aid of using punching and kicking techniques, with emphasis on head-peak kicks, spinning bounce kicks, and rapid kicking techniques.

The literal translation for Tae-kwon-do is "kicking," "punching," and "the artwork or manner of" Taekwondo practitioners put on a uniform, called a "Dobok".

It is a fight recreation and evolved throughout the Forties and Nineteen Fifties through Korean martial artists who enjoy martial arts along with karate, Chinese martial arts, and indigenous Korean martial arts traditions along with Taekkyon, Subak, and Gwonbeop.




Bibimbap is a meal that is served with white rice crowned with diverse veggies and meat, blending them with gochujang. The colorations and flavour of this meal range through ingredients, and in view that its form and colorations are beautiful, it became known as Hwaban (lit. flower rice) from the antique days.

Bibimbap is a meal wherein the flavour of every factor is in harmony. It is viable to deliver out different flavours through ingredients, consisting of Sanchae, yukhoe, and seafood.

The flavour may be exclusive through the bowl that bibimbap is placed in, and there may be a sort of bibimbap served in a warm stone pot. Bibimbap`s flavour and form fluctuate through region.

Jeonju bibimbap is particularly well-known amongst nearby versions. In October, the Jeonju Bibimbap Festival is held for 3 days in Jeonju. During that period, you could for my part try to make bibimbap.

Thus bibimbap isn't the best meals that Koreans can effortlessly make and devour at home, it's also a healthful meal that is loved as a unique meal with diverse ingredients.

Here’s an quick Bibimbap recipe for y'all:



  • 100g / 3.5 ounces beef mince (or other cuts)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic


  • 250g (0.6 pounds) seasoned spinach
  • 350g (0.8 pounds) seasoned bean sprouts – (You don’t have to use them up if you think it’s too much but I love having lots of vegetables on my bibimbap!)
  • 100g (3.5 ounces) shiitake mushroom
  • 120g (4.2 ounces) carrots (1 small)
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt (1/4 tsp each will be used when cooking shiitake mushroom and carrots)
  • 3 to 4 serving portions of steamed rice
  • 3 or 4 eggs (depending on the serving portion)
  • Some cooking oil to cook the meat, mushroom, carrots and eggs – I used rice bran oil.
  • Some toasted seasoned seaweed, shredded (long thin cut)


  • 2 Tbsp gochujang
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp sugar – I used raw sugar
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp roasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp vinegar – I used apple vinegar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic


  1. Prepare and cook ingredients as below.
  2. For meat, mix the beef mince with the meat sauce listed above. Marinate the meat for about 30 mins while you are working on other ingredients to enhance the flavour. Add some cooking oil into a wok and cook the meat on medium high to high heat. It takes about 3 to 5 mins to thoroughly cook it.
  3. Mix the bibimbap sauce ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Cook spinach and bean sprouts per linked recipe.
  5. Rinse, peel and julienne the carrots. Add some cooking oil and 1/4 tsp of fine sea salt in a wok and cook the carrots on medium high to high heat for 2 to 3 mins.
  6. Clean/rinse the shiitake mushrooms and thinly slice them. Add some cooking oil and 1/4 tsp of fine sea salt in a wok and cook the mushrooms on medium high to high heat until they are all cooked. (It takes 2 to 3 mins.)
  7. Make fried eggs. (While sunny side up is common, you can make them per your preference.)
  8. Put the rice into a bowl and add the meat, assorted vegetables, seasoned seaweed, bibimbap sauce, and the egg on top of the rice. Serve.
  9. To eat,  mix the ingredients in the bowl, and enjoy!

That’s all for some of the symbolic icons of Korea.

Author : Saurabh Thapa


Hangul, Kimchi, korean, Korean Cultural Symbolic Icons, korean culture, Symbols

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