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It has already been two weeks since the Opening of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics! Are you enjoying yourself?

Already, there have been many memorable scenes from this Olympics.

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A newcomer in the sledding scene, Yoon Seong-bin won the gold medal wearing an Iron Man helmet and breaking track records back-to-back. The Korean women’s short-track skating team managed to break Olympic record in the 3000m women’s relay semifinals event, despite one of the runners falling down early on in the race.

But there was something, something more than just the world-class athletes or their performances to catch the viewers’ minds ever since the Opening Ceremony began.

I think you may have noticed. It is the giant bird with a human face, ‘Inmyeonjo’, literally translating to ‘human-faced bird’.

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The ‘Inmyeonjo’, as it appeared during the opening ceremony, managed to bring itself to the top of the internet trends and is still a source of wonder for many.

At first, the general reaction was one of confusion, torn between the urge to feel both beauty and fear. Some even viewed it as “outrageous” or “gross,” but public opinion shifted itself eventually, to the extent that people have even started to draw fanart on the subject.

In fact, the history of this strange looking bird, the ‘Inmyeonjo’, began a long, long time ago.

 

Let’s learn more about ‘Inmyeonjo’,’ through Yang Jeong-woong’s interview, director of the opening and closing ceremony at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

 

 “The motif of the performance is from ancient mythology, including a festival of Goguryeo. The main motif is the mural paintings of  Goguryeo, which feature ‘Inmyeonjo’. Originally, the story came from India, where Buddhism was involved. The scene in which ‘Inmyeonjo’ appears is a scene in which the sky, the Earth and the human being, nature and animals mix well together. I would like to show we are a people who know coexistence and peace already. Therefore, the scene is titled ‘Land of Peace’.”

-Reference: Kyunghyang News

As he said, the first introduction of ‘Inmyeonjo’ in Korean history goes back to Goguryeo, one of the strongest kingdoms of the Three Kingdoms Period in the Korean Peninsula.

 

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Goguryeo was an ancient kingdom that spanned through the areas of present-time Manchuria to the central part of the Korean Peninsula, from 1st century B.C. to 668 A.D. As you can see from the above map of Goguryeo, depicting it in its heyday, Goguryeo was a strong warrior country, its power coming from its many excellent riders. Goryeo, a later historical kingdom that later became the origin of the name of ‘Korea’ was established to succeed the history of Goguryeo.

 

Especially, ‘Inmyeonjo’ for the people of Goguryeo, was the symbol of a peaceful era when the nation is domestically and internationally safe. It was said that in times of peace, it will come down to the human world for celebration. In addition, ‘Inmyeonjo’ stood in history in the same vein as Buddhism during the countries after Goguryeo such as Baekje, Unified Silla, and the early period of the Goryeo Dynasty. However, as Confucianism entered the Korean Peninsula and Buddhism was repressed, the religion and the cultural symbols associated with it gradually vanished. So naturally, we were unfamiliar with the human-faced bird that showed its face all of a sudden, when in fact, it is possible to see ‘Inmyeonjo’ in our various cultural heritages.

 

It’s a fresh shock now, but, it has always been there for you!

As the ‘Inmyeonjo’ is a symbol of coexistence and peace, it seems to be a symbol of wishing, of hoping that the Olympics will serve as a place of peaceful coexistence as the global festival it is.

As the symbol of peace and happiness is coming, we hope this Olympic will last to be a fun and happy one until the very moment the closing ceremony ends.

Please look forward to the next pick!