A B O U T   K O R E A

Korean Myths and Tales : Tangun, The Father of Our Nation

The history of Korea is 5000 years old.
The Korean people formed their own nation with a single race.
In B.C.2333, they created their own territory in a peninsula far east.
Um. . . how about us beginning the story now.

It happened a long long time ago. . .
The heavens were ruled by King Hwan-In.
He had a son named, Hwan-Woong.
Hwan-Woong often looked down below, to observe the people living on the land.
But the sight only made him sigh with worry.
One day the King asked his son,
"My son, why do you look so anxious, you are the prince of the heavens and soon you will inherit my kingdom. What is there to worry about?"

Hwan-Woong replied,
"Father, I have seen how the people live on the land and I see that they are becoming more and more deceiving. Such a sight upsets me. Permit to descend down, so that I can help these people, father."

And he pleaded sincerely.
On hearing his plea, the king was proud of his son. Yet at the same time he felt wistful and sad.
Nevertheless, Hwan-Woong was granted his wish from the heavens. And he landed on the most important spot of all, in the east - the land that is known as Korea today.
When he came down, he brought the wind, cloud and the rain gods with him. Along with 3000 subordinates.
The King Hwan-In gave his son the rights of heaven together with his blessing.
The rights of heaven is like a treasured world stamp given by the king.
Hwan-Woong formed the capital city near Shin-Dan-Su and named it Shin-Si.
His reign on the land, encouraged the disappearance of fights and all bad things that had existed before. The animals too became very docile.
One day, a tiger and a bear came to Hwan-Woong.


They wanted to become humans.
Hwan-Woong carefully explained to them that it would require immense patience and that the experience would be too harsh and draining.
Yet the tiger and the bear remained reluctant to submit. They told Hwan-Woong that they could sustain any kind of pain if only it meant that they could become human beings.
He thought for a while. Then he gave the tiger and the bear twenty garlic pieces and a bunch of crown daisies each.

"Eat these and pray to the gods for a hundred days. You must pray with all your heart. You are not allowed to see daylight for the hundred days. Do you understand?"

The tiger and the bear walked into a cave, contented, with the thought of becoming a human.
For a few days, they prayed to the gods, eating only garlic and the crown daisies. They prayed, "Gods above, please hear my prayer. Let be become a human being."

Few more days passed by.

Let us peep inside to see what the two of them are doing. . .

Tiger: I am so hungry that I think I am going crazy!
Bear: Gods above hear my plea, let me be a human being.
Tiger: How can you pray in these conditions! Do you have enough strength left to ask to be
          granted with your wish? What's the point, we are going to die anyway!
Bear: Hear my prayer, let me become a human being.
Tiger: Dear bear! I cannot stand this any longer!
          Are you going to continue praying like an idiot?!
Bear: I know that we will be granted with our wish. Please be patient, tiger.
          You can become a human, it just takes some time. . .
Tiger: Dear bear, you do it. I cannot go on like this any longer.
          I am leaving you. Goodbye!
Bear: Gods in heaven, let me bec. . ome. . .a . . .Tiger! Tiger! Come back!

The tiger left without being able to sustain the hardship of becoming a human being.

Now what about the bear, let us turn back, once again, to the scene.

Bear: (With tears rolling down its face) How can you leave like this, tiger. . .

The bear is feeling very sad. Oh no!
Minutes later,

Bear: Tiger could not do it, but I must go on till the end.

Twenty days passed.
All the hairs on the bear's body, began to fall off gradually.

At long last, one hundred days passed!
Something strange was beginning to happen inside the cave.
The bear was transformed into a woman. And a beautiful one too!
Hwan-Woong named this beautiful woman Woong-Nyo.
And he married her.
Do you think that this is a little strange?
Hwan-Woong must have respected Woong-Nyo's patience and became attracted to her her beauty and her kindness.
Anyway, they wed and they lived happily ever after.

The story does not end here.

A son is born to Hwan-Woong and Woong-Nyo. This brought joy to the two people.
Of course!
A healthy son born to follow his father's footsteps.
This child is the ancestor to all Korean people - he is the famous Tangun.
Tangun grew up to succeed his father. He rules Shin-si.
Later, he changed the capital to the banks of Baek-Ak Mountain, near Pyongyang( was known as ASADAL, in those times). He named the country CHOSUN.
The first ever country to be formed in the Korean Peninsula, B.C. 2333.
According to Tangun,

" We are the descendents of the kingdom of heaven.
The heavens sent their son to aid and give to the people. So that they can live in fortune and prosperity. Moreover, I was told to spread the heavens' brilliant ray evenly amongst our land.
I will put this into practice."

Hence our nation was found and it was devoted to the welfare of its people.
Tangun cared about his people and the people were devoted to him. They referred to him, as Tangun the Much-Respected - Tangun-Wang-Gum.
This is the first ever Korean Myth - The Tale of Tangun.

Now, we would like to include a little bit about ancient Chosun.
We refer to the land founded by Tangun as Ancient Chosun. This is to distinguish the Chosun period that is to follow later.
Tangun founded Ancient Chosun in B.C. 2333. If you add A.D. 1998 to this former number, it becomes 4331. Therefore, in Korea, we say that we are living in the year 4331, which is the equivalent to 1998.
Also the 1st of October is the National Foundation Day(Tangun's Accession Day), the day that Tangun found Korea.
It is a public holiday for the people of Korea.

This is all for now everyone.
Until the next time, An-Nyoung-Hee Kae-Sei-Yo(Goodbye)!

*For anyone who wish to know more about this subject, please write to us through our E-mail address.


As stated in the title of this story, it is a myth.
Through this story, we are able to picture the lives of our ancestors. The story contains many meanings. They have been clarified accordingly as follows:

the entire story is structured around heaven, earth and humans.
Hwan-In in heaven, the bear on the land and Tangun represents humans.
This is very important for the Korean people, as they believe that their lives are controlled by these three factors.

the tale is centred around the heavens, therefore we are able to see that the heavens are respected by the people - hence the belief that the Korean people are the descendants of the kingdom of heaven.

Tangun was born between the son of heaven and the daugther of evolution on the land. Therefore, the earth and the heavens were able to unite through this match. Consequently, the Korean people are know to be very rational.

the Korean belief in religion, politics and social issues are all compacted in this one statement - "Be good and generous extensively, to all people" - this is the devotion to the welfare of the people.

the garlic and the crown daisies suggest about the Korean use of ancient medicine. The fact that the bear became a human by eating garlic and crown daisies imply that they were both used for healing people.

q the story contains historical facts.
It shows four historical phases:

  1. The Rule of Hwan-In: A period of congregating.
  2. Hwan-Woong Period: Village Community.
    Living was based on agriculture, striving to stabilize people's life pattern. The foundations to farming were laid during this period, with Hwan-Woong providing the most apt conditions for cultivating the land.
    Remember, he worked with the wind, cloud and rain gods.
  3. The Marriage of Hwan-Woong and Woong-Nyo:
    The Union of Different Villages.
    Ancient villages had their own guardian angels or protective gods.
    When two villages are united, their gods are also brought together.
    Therefore the marriage shows the union of the two masses, one sector worships heaven and the other the bear.
  4. The Tangun Era:
    Founder of Ancient Chosun and the beginnings to the establishment of national communities.
    The story gives us a fair idea of the life and social conditions of the period before Ancient Chosun was founded. Furthermore, the people's lifestyle in the latter half of the Neolithic period, is well presented in this story.


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