By Jeongnam Kim
(Former Senior Presidential Secretary for Education·Culture·Society, World Korean News advisor)
There was a newspaper story that said the Korean people prefer the color of a car to be silver of all things. This is a my-car era, and it is quite natural for people to want to drive a car of their choice. It was known that most of the people in another opinion poll showed an overwhelming preference for an achromatic color.
Silver is no other than a transformation of white color, and this shows our color preference past and present. yukdang Choi Nam-sun, in his book titled 'Answers to the common sense questionnaire of Chosun (Korea)', said that "our people regarded the Sun as our God in the ancient times and believed that they are the descendants of the Sun God."
He also said, "They took the white color as representing the Light of the Sun and they took the color as sacred. Therefore they clothed themselves white." In the Book of Wi of the Three Nation Chronicles, the Buyeo tribe from ancient times worshiped white clothes and enjoyed wearing white robes with wide sleeves and pants. As such, the Korean people were the white-clothed nation in ancient times.
It is an established theory that the reason the Korean people preferred the white color was because they liked the light of the Sun. They wore the clothes of the sacred color of the Sun, or the white color, and they took pride being a white-clothed people, because they were the people who were descendants of Heaven and they had a sense of pride as the light of the Sun was handed down. It was known that the Sungmo Chonwang, or Holy Mother Heavenly King of the Jiri Mountain was white-clothed and the portraits of Dan-Gun also show that he was white-clothed.
Religious leaders wear white because the white color symbolizes nobleness, purity and the sacred. Our people used to enjoy wearing white cotton clothes, regardless of social status - the scholars, business people, woodmen, or farmers, not to mention the scarecrows in the paddies or in the fields. The main actor of Neil Wells' <Arirang> stated:
"In the riverside covered with glittering pebbles, country housewives and virgins are laundering the snow-white cotton clothes, and it would not be easy to do the hard work if they are not the people of ideologists and martyrs."
The white cloth is not just a simple color of cloth. It is the nation's philosophy, the sentiment and intentions behind it. It’s not just white clothes but also everything white from the ancient times. There is an entry in the Annals of King Sejong that white porcelain vessels were used in the royal court. It is not an accident that we have created a whitish seventeenth day moon-like urn. We used to wear white clothes, starched and pounded until it became classy white. Yes, this white color has our national sentiment and heart reflected in it.
It is not an accident that we have created a whitish seventeenth day moon-like urn. We used to wear white cloths starched, pouned until it became classy white. Yes, this white color has our national sentiment and heart reflected in it.
Choi Sun-woo, a scholar of art history, said that if one does not know and appreciate the world of Korea's wide white light and the beauty of the untold formless circle, he or she is not supposed to claim that one comprehends the beauty of Korea, or the essence of the things Korean. As such, the beauty of Korea and all things Korean cannot be separated from white color.