In power from 1392 until 1897, the Korean Joseon Dynasty was founded by Yi Seong-gye in what is today, Kaesong, a city in North Korea that is very close to the current border with the South. In wasn’t long before the capital was moved to Seoul, and the majority of what is modern Korea came under its control. Stuck between China and Japan, the Joseon Dynastic Korea suffered repeated conflicts with both, and became increasingly isolationist from the 1630s, until the early 19th century.
As it gradually opened up in the early 1800s, it faced multiple internal and external pressures, leading to a rapid decline, and not managing to stay intact until the end of the century. It remains hugely influential, however, with much of Korea’s modern language, culture, etiquette, and bureaucracy, tracing their roots back to the Joseon Dynastic period. One of those cultural items, introduced in 1454, is the subject of Coins Today’s latest issue.
Called a ‘Rank Badge’, these small embroidered patches were worn on the official robes of the Royal Family, and government officials, on the front and the back. Each carried symbolism related to the wearers position. One with twin tigers would be worn by a military official, for example, and the one here, with twin cranes, was displayed on the robes of civil officials of the first to third rank. The badge system was called hyungbae, because it was worn on the front (hyung) and back (bae) of official clothing. It was phased out in 1899.