blue steel  zoolander

Colors of Korea: The Beauty and Balance of Blue

Even the most naive individuals understand there is a philosophy of dual forces in the eastern world. For westerners, the most recognizable symbol of this philosophy is the yin-yang or tai chi symbol. The simplicity of the black and white shape demonstrates a harmonic balance between the forces of yin and yang. Superficially, the forces may appear contrary to one another, but they are interconnected and interdependent of each other. One gives rise to the other, and together they are greater than their individual parts.


In essence, life isn’t just good or bad, dark or light and hot or cold.  It is only through understanding the opposing force that we truly appreciate the other.  How can we truly appreciate health if we have never been sick? How can we truly value peace unless we experienced the horrors of war?  How much more do we revel in the pleasure of sticking our toes in the sand of a tropical beach after we just survived a frigid, Korean winter?  Together, both forces bring complete understanding and enrich the other.

The familiarity of westerners with the concept and symbolism of yin and yang create an instant, if not subconscious recognition of the South Korean flag.  Perhaps individuals can’t tell you what county the flag represents, but the center of the flag undoubtedly stirs an indelible and familiar feeling. Korean_Flag2 The center of the Korean flag is known as the Tae-Geuk.  It represents the origin of the universe and the balance of “Yang” (red) and “Um” (blue).  Yang represents fire, sky, life, passion, masculinity, construction, day, heat and so on.  Um complements and completes Yang by representing, water, shade, ground, death, passivity, feminism, deconstruction, night and cold.  There is constant movement between these two forces, but they always work in balance and harmony.

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Roller Coaster in Children’s Park – Seoul

The Tae-Geuk is a bit like a rollercoaster: for every climb there is a fall; for every apex there is a nadir; acceleration follows deceleration and vice versa; excitement turns to fear, and fear turns to joy.  The movements, twists, turns, loops and emotions never end; they only ceaselessly and harmoniously transition into each other.

For the colors of Korea project, Kimchibytes presents the color blue.  From a western perspective, blue could be viewed as a negative color.  It’s important to realize, however, that the true beauty and balance of blue in Korean culture is that it illuminates and enriches the meaning of other colors, all while being beautiful and appreciated in its own right.  Blue is the continuation of a greater cycle and an essential part of harmony.  Enjoying life in red is easy, but appreciating life in the blue shows true wisdom, integrity and fulfillment.

Apart from any historical or philosophical context, blue can be found everywhere in Korea.  Below are just a few samples of the various shades on blue on the Korean peninsula.

The Start of the Cheonggyecheon

Salt Life

Blue represents water, and much like my home in Florida, Korea is a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides.  Seafood plays a dominant part in Korean cuisine.  Whether walking the streets in Jangandong in Seoul, or visiting the beautiful coastal city of Gangneung, the streets are lined with seafood restaurants and blue tanks carrying delicacies ranging from sea squirts to squid.  Is beef jerky not your thing?  Not a problem!  Try some dried squid or octopus – all the protein and half the sodium.

The beaches in Korea are no match for Florida (few are), but they have their unique charm and characteristics.  Below are pictures from my favorite beaches and beach moments in Korea.

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The wonderful scent of pine trees and ocean at Gyeongpo Beach near Gangneung on the East coast.
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Blue can represent water, ground, passivity – this guy chilling at Mudfest on under Boryeong Beach works for me.
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Blue People at Burn Korea 2012 at Gijipo Beach


Naksan Beach and Naksana Temple

One of my favorite beaches in Korea resides on the east coast.  Naksan Beach always  offers a beautiful, tranquil, and well-needed break from the concrete jungle of Seoul.

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Blue Steele (Fashion)

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Partying with Silk Juice at Exit in Hongdae

Korea is a place of extreme fashion.  Men never leave the house without perfectly styled hair and an impeccable array of vibrantly colored clothes.  Sometimes, they even rock blue hair.  I’m lucky if my shoes match my shirt.

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Tom’s Cat Cafe in Hongdae

Even cats in Korea like to rock the blue accessories at Cat Cafes.  Blue Scarf anyone?

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My friend modeling her Hanbok at Jogyesa Temple in Seoul

Finally, Koreans have beautiful traditional clothing.   A hanbok is a traditional Korean dress.  Throughout Korean history, commoners wore the hanbok and it became popularized during the celebrated Joseon Dynasty.  Although the style of the hanbok evolved over time, Koreans still wear the hanbok for formal or semi-formal events like festivals, celebrations, special family events, weddings or first birthdays.

All of the Lights

The APM Building in Dongdaemun

Over the last fifty years, South Korea has emerged from the depths of extreme poverty to become one of the foremost financial powers in the world.  This transition manifests in the physical appearance of Seoul.  At times, the most futuristic buildings can be found amid very humble settings.  I liken the appearance to communist-fashioned concrete buildings giving birth to UFO’s.  Nevertheless, Seoul and South Korea provide some spectacular lights shows.

The Max-Style Building in Dongdaemun

The Max Style Building in Dongdaemun

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A Night Walk on the Cheonggyecheon

The Cheonggyecheon


Popular Culture

Unfortunately, most of the time I set aside to work on this project was spent in a hospital or recovering from surgery.  I wanted to include the Blue House, several blue roofs in Korea, pictures from the blue subway line in Seoul, and a few other random blue encounters.  Instead, I’ll leave you with three blue pieces of popular culture in Korea.

League of Legends is very popular in the ROK

I couldn’t find a blue PC Bang, but how about this blue screen shot from League of Legends?  PC Bangs are still all the rage in Korea.  I often write blog posts in these rooms full of big screens, fast computers, sugary snacks, and middle-aged gamers.  I’m not hating, I just can’t keep up with Koreans in multiplayer games – show me the money😉

English: Brian Sikorski 日本語: ブライアン・シコースキー
English: Brian Sikorski 日本語: ブライアン・シコースキー (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Baseball is very popular in Korea.  Even after my recent hospital roommate had nose surgery to repair his deviated septum, it did not inhibit him from watching baseball and screaming loudly for his team.  The blue team is the Samsung Lions.  Migukly speaking, Go Cubs!


Finally, Korea is not Korea without beer or Soju on some patio furniture outside of Family Mart CU.  Our blue beverage of choice is Cass Light.  It helps us maintain our trim figures while maintaining a good buzz. 건배!

The Colors of Korea Project

Check out these other great blogs for the full spectrum.

Red at Lost in the ROK
Yellow Seoul Sate of Mind
Pink at Head High Heart Strong
Orange at Seoul Searching
Purple at Mapping Words
Green at Johanne Miller
White at Evangeline Story

13 thoughts on “Colors of Korea: The Beauty and Balance of Blue

  1. Color specturm shots, great idea, and probably a lot of fun to shoot too. I was trying to set up a site like that a while back Rainbofolio, but I didnt have the shots for it. It then that I realized, its quick hard to do a project like that, because its rare to get shots of pure color


  2. I like how bold your photos are, Brent. Oh, and I saw that guy with the striped lipstick and blue hair at the Grimes concert–I think–but maybe it was a different event… where you there too?


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