Taegukgi patriotism

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Taegukgi patriotism

The Taegukgi, the Korean national flag, made remarkable appearances in two recent movies, “Ode to My Father” and “Assassination.”

In “Ode to My Father,” Hwang Jung-min and his wife stop arguing when the siren for the flag lowering ceremony begins and pay a hand salute to the national flag. The scene reflects the social atmosphere in the 1970s, and it was criticized for lacking understanding of the forced patriotism from the authorities.

The Taegukgi can be seen on the poster of “Assassination,” a film about an operation to assassinate pro-Japanese figures by the provisional Korean government in exile in Shanghai. In the movie, the main characters have meetings in a room with the Taegukgi hanging on the wall.

Three agents chosen to carry out the mission have a picture taken in front of a large Taegukgi. The photo of young Koreans with naive ambitions is tragic, and it moves the audience when the photo reappears in the climax of the movie. “Assassination” received critical acclaim as a period drama and genre film.

In the 70th anniversary of independence, many Taegukgi-related events are scheduled this year, including flag drawing, hoisting, writing contests and exhibits. In an interview for a public service position, candidates were asked to sing the fourth verse of the national anthem, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and explain the four trigrams on the national flag. Government websites also feature the Taegukgi. The Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning website has a link for the national anthem. High-level officials wear Taegukgi pins, and the military has the Taegukgi tag on the combat uniforms of all members of the armed forces.

As symbols of the nation, the Taegukgi and national anthem deserve respect and love. However, the government-orchestrated policy and demands are uncomfortable and unpleasant. The appearance of the Taegukgi can be criticized as a “sign of state-controlled patriotism” in a certain movie while it evokes true emotion and patriotic spirit in another. No pressure or planning was needed when the nation was united over our love for the country and young people wrapped themselves in the Taegukgi for the World Cup.

In the early ’80s, I was a high school student and attended a nationwide student council leadership workshop. The center of the workshop was a “Taegukgi experience session” on the last night. After a time for meditation in the dark, a spotlight was pointed at a gigantic Taegukgi on the wall, and the high school girls cried with overwhelming emotion.

While I thought we were deeply touched at the time, it is uncertain whether my patriotism actually grew at all. That’s my most vivid memory from the period of forced Taegukgi patriotism.

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 31, Page 31


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