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Traditional Music

Korean traditional music is called "Guk-ak.“ Korea has a long history of music and dancing. Korean music originated from the ceremony of offering to the god of heaven. With increased trades and exchange of culture with other countries in the Three Kingdom age, Korean music developed further. Throughout the ages, Guk-ak developed further in various ways, and with the foundation of the National Classical Music Institute in 1951, they could make more systematic efforts to preserve and pass down traditional music. With the recent trend of valuing and shedding a new light on traditional culture among Koreans, there have been various effort made to preserve and develop Korean culture.


Pansori is a type of music widely performed and enjoyed among lower middle class people in the later years of the Joseon dynasty. In the mid 19th century, Sin Jae-hyo classified the existing pieces. After that, 5 Madang (chapters) out of the whole 12 chapters of one piece began to be performed and a type in which a group of people play different parts or characters was also introduced.

Traditionally, Pansori is a monodrama in which one singer tells a long story in songs to the rhythm of a drum by "Gosu," the leading drummer. The singer sings in Hanbok with a fan in her/his hand. Pansori has stories about lives and the realities of average people. Their candid sensibility and humanity is portrayed in the songs. The five chapters of Chun-hyang, Sim-cheong, Hong-bo, Su-gung, Jeok-byeok are popular.


Pungmul is a type of dance which represents Korean spirit very effectively and has the longest history among Korean traditional dances. It started from a festival in which people wish for good harvest of the year and community spirit among those who toil together on farms. Koreans have traditionally thought that farmers are the most important people. Based on this philosophy, different regions have developed their unique Pungmul.

Pungmul can make people excited and bring up the spirit of harmony with others. It was a play among farmers, but developed into an art form, becoming one of the representative dances of Korea. In 1978, when the Kim Deok-su team developed a new form of Pungmul or Sa-mul with four instruments (Goang-gari, Jing, Jang-gu, and buk), it became popular. Pungmul is performed by the musicians while standing, and Samul means a performance played by the musicians sitting. The sounds of each instrument are compared to the sounds of nature. Sounds of Goang-gari represent those of thunder, Jing, wind, Jang-gu, rain, and Buk, clouds.


Talchum is a mask drama in which characters talk, sing, and dance in masks. It is known to have existed since the age of Shilla. It first started as a ritual rather than a form of art, and then developed ino a form of play later. There are three kinds: "Byeoksa" was for repelling bad spirits and inviting good luck. In the "Ma-eul" type, the whole town danced together. There was also a type played by wandering professionals.


Koreans began to make pottery for use from the Stone Age (7000~8000 years ago). In later years of Shilla, they introduced the skills of making celadon from China, and in Goryo, they developed their own unique green color in celadon, and Goryo Cheongja (celadon) became famous in other countries for its refined and magnificent beauty. However, Goryo celadon became more rare in the later years of Goryo.

In early Joseon, they made Buncheongsa-gi, simple gray celadon, and later they produced white ones and blue ones. Korean pottery is made of high quality clay and it is famous for its unique beauty. In addition to Buncheongsa-gi and Cheongja, there is earth wear and Baekja (white porcelain).


Taekwondo, which was officially named so in 1955, has been the Korean national sport since 1971. Taekwondo is based on the principle of three absolutes of the heaven, the earth, and the human and on the principle of yin, yang, and five elements. "Tae," the first syllable of the name means "to kick or jump," and "kwon" means a fist. The last syllable "do" means discipline. Taekwondo was officially acknowledged as an international sport by joining the IOC in 1975, and has been an official Olympic game since  the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.

Players wear white practice uniforms and a belt in one of five colors. White belts are for beginners, yellow, blue, and red are for trainees, and black ones are for masters.

The movements of Taekwondo are dynamic and, at the same time, graceful. It is also a good sport for training one's mind as well as body. Players use all parts of their body for defense and attack in Taekowndo. They train their body and mind with basic movements, postures, matches, breaking, and self-defense. As all of Korean martial arts put emphasis on discipline manners, observing proper manners is important in Taekwondo.