[FOUNTAIN]The North Korean flag

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[FOUNTAIN]The North Korean flag

"The national flag of the DPRK consists of a central red panel, bordered both above and below by a narrow white stripe and a broad blue stripe. The central red panel bears a five-pointed red star within a white circle near the hoist. The ratio of the width to its length is 1:2."

The quote is from Article 164 of the North Korean constitution of 1998. But it is interesting that the South Korean national flag was displayed even in North Korea for three years after independence in 1945. The flag was also the flag of the Korean provisional government in Shanghai, of the liberation army and even of left-wing independence fighters. When the Russian revolutionary communist Vladimir Lenin made a speech in Moscow's Red Square in 1920, a group of ethnic Koreans who were present as ethnic minority representatives of the Soviet Union were holding the taegeukki, as the flag is called in Korean.

After independence, the North formed a constitutional legislation committee in November 1947; it included artists to design a national flag and emblem. The red in the North Korean flag symbolizes the blood shed by revolutionaries and revolutionary energy; the white signifies a nation of a single ethnic group with long history and culture, and the blue indicates the spirit of its people and the sovereignty of the nation.

In early February 1948, Kim Il Sung, the North Korean leader, ordered the white circle and star added to symbolize the bravery and heroism of the people. The flag was officially adopted on Sept. 8, 1948, along with a new constitution and the new government of North Korea was proclaimed the following day. The North Korean national anthem had been adopted earlier, in September 1947.

The former East Germany added a hammer and an ear of barley to the original black, red and yellow national flag of the old Germany when that government was founded in 1949. Thus, the flag did not look much different from the West German flag.

But North Korea completely redesigned its flag and adopted a new national anthem to emphasize its break from South Korea.

The North Korean flag not only symbolizes the North but also reminds many South Koreans of a series of tragedies beginning with the Korean War up to the recent naval battle in the Yellow Sea. Since the North Korean flag will inevitably be flown during the Asian Games scheduled at the end of next month, we will need Solomon's wisdom to decide how to react to its display.

The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Noh Jae-hyun

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