The Korean flag as well as the American flag is honored in dojangs throughout the United States. When we bow to the flags at the beginning and end of class, we express not only a feeling of patriotism and love for our own country, but also a sense of respect for the Korean roots of the art of Tae Kwon Do.
At the center of the Korean flag is the extremely ancient circular symbol known as Tae Geuk (literally, “Great Infinity”). The red upper portion of the symbol is known as Yang, the character for which had as its original meaning “banners waving in the sun” or “something shone upon.” The blue lower section is known as Um, having as its primary meaning “the cloudy” or “ the overcast.” The opposite elements of Yang and Um are combined together in the Tae Geuk symbol, which has traditionally come to represent the intrinsically dualistic nature of the universe-firm and yielding, masculine and feminine, positive and negative, light and dark, good and evil. Together through their interplay and perpetual transformation, Um and Yang give rise to the “ten thousand things,” the world of existence as we know it.
Surrounding the circle are eight sets of bars called trigrams, symbolizing the four primary elements of heaven, earth, fire, and water. The trigrams together with the Tae Geuk symbol reaffirm the idea of opposition and balance in nature.
Thus, the basic philosophy expressed by the Tae Geuk Ki is one of balance, change, and harmonious development in accordance with the Way of Nature. The emblem of a proud nation, it is, as well, a perfect symbol for the spirit of Tae Kwon Do.