What is Gwangbokjeol?
August 15 is the National Liberation Day of Korea and is a very important public holiday in Korea. This day is called Gwangbokjeol in Korean and literally translated, it means “Restoration of Light Day”. Gwangbokjeol celebrates the victory over Japan which liberated Korea from 35 years of Japanese colonial rule on August 15, 1945. It is the only holiday shared by the both North Korea and South Korea.
How do Koreans Celebrate Gwangbokjeol?
Citizens are encouraged to hang the the Korean national flag, the Taegeukgi, outside their homes. Many activities and events take place on this holiday, including an official ceremony attended by the President of Korea at the Independence Hall in Cheonan or at the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. The official Gwangbokjeol song is sung at official ceremonies.
This year, the Denny Taegukgi, the oldest surviving Taegukgi, is officially being designated as a national treasure by Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA). The Korea Times reports that the Denny Taegukgi is believed to have been created in 1890 or earlier, and was owned by Owen Nickerson Denny (1838-1900), an American who worked as one of the principal diplomatic advisers for King Gojong. In 1981, the flag was donated back to Korea by one of Denny’s descendants and is now stored in the National Museum of Korea.
The Taegeukgi is very symbolic. The white background represent peace and purity, the red and blue in the center represent Yin and Yang in balance, while the four black trigrams at the corners symbolize four different elements.