Korea National Foundation Day

Korea National Foundation Day (Tangun Day, Tangun Accession Day)

Type of Holiday: National
Date of Observation: October 3
Where Celebrated: North Korea, South Korea
Symbols and Customs: Offerings, Speeches

ORIGINS

Also known as Tangun Day or Tangun Accession Day, Korea National Foundation Day commemorates the establishment of the Choson Kingdom in 2333 B . C ., marking the beginning of the Korean society and way of life. Korea National Foundation Day

According to Korean legend, Tangun (alternately, Dangun or Tan-gun) was the son of a god and a bear-woman. As the first leader of the Korean people, Tangun created a system of government that instituted laws and moral codes of behavior. He also gave the Korean people skills in such areas as art, medicine, and agriculture. Tangun is thought to have ruled Korea for more than 1,000 years before becoming a mountain god.

Korea National Foundation Day, which celebrates Korean culture and the achievements of the Korean people, is a national holiday in South Korea. National holidays can be defined as those commemorations that a nation's government has deemed important enough to warrant inclusion in the list of official public holidays. They tend to honor a person or event that has been critical in the development of the nation and its identity. Such people and events usually reflect values and traditions shared by a large portion of the citizenry. It is a day of national pride for Koreans all over the world, although most public celebrations occur in South Korea. North Korea does not recognize the day as an official national holiday. In 2002, however, North Korean leaders participated with South Korea in a joint observance of the day for the first time since the Korean peninsula was divided in 1948.

SYMBOLS AND CUSTOMS

Offerings

Each year on National Foundation Day, a ceremony to honor Tangun is held at the Chamseongdan altar, located at the summit of Mt. Manisan on the southwestern point of Ganghwado Island in South Korea. This altar is said to have been built by Tangun and is itself a legendary place of worship and sacrifice favored by ancient kings throughout Korean history.

Speeches

National Foundation Day has become an occasion for politically themed speeches delivered by South Korean government leaders.

FURTHER READING

Cumings, Bruce. Korea's Place in the Sun: A Modern History. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005. Henderson, Helene, ed. Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, 3rd ed. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 2005. Rees, David. Korea: An Illustrated History from Ancient Times to 1945. New York: Hippocrene Books: 2001.

WEB SITE

Life in Korea www.lifeinkorea.com/Information

Korea National Foundation Day

October 3
This national holiday in the Republic of Korea (South Korea), also known as Tangun Day and Gaecheon-jeol, commemorates the legendary founding of the Korean nation in 2333 b.c.e. by Tangun.
Prince Hwan-ung left heaven to rule earth from Mt. T'aebaek. In his kingdom were a bear and a tiger who wished to become humans. Hwan-ung told them that if they remained in a cave for 100 days eating nothing but mugwort and garlic, they would become like people. The tiger got bored, but the bear lasted it out and became a beautiful woman. She and Hwan-ung bore a son called Tangun Wanggom, meaning Sandalwood King. When he grew up, he built his own city at the present site of P'yongyang (now the capital of North Korea) and called his new kingdom Choson, meaning "morning freshness" or "morning calm." The book Samguk Yusa, written in 1289, records this story. The myth is important in that it links the Korean people with a heavenly origin.
The holiday is celebrated with ceremonies at the ancient rock altar of Tangun, on the summit of Mt. Mani on Kanghwa Island, about 25 miles west of Seoul.
CONTACTS:
Embassy of the Republic of Korea
2320 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
202-939-5663; fax: 202-342-1597
www.dynamic-korea.com
SOURCES:
AnnCustKorea-1983, p. 145
AnnivHol-2000, p. 167
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