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Numbers in the World: Korea North and South

Part of my occasional series on number interpretations for the real world. This post is inspired by the Korean Summit of 27th April 2018.  I was so pleased to see the two leaders meeting and taking this step towards a peaceful reunification of Korea. This article focuses on the North and South Korean International Telephone codes and also includes some ideas on their flags and their land from my time spent  teaching there.

My first visit to South Korea was some years ago in a period of high tension as North Korea were making a nuclear test. I remember asking my students how they felt about the North Koreans. Their answer surprised me, and I remember it to this day. “They are our brothers and sisters.”

South Korea is 82

It was an answer though which made South Korea’s International Dialling Code +82 very understandable. 82 can be seen as a 2 behind an 8. It indicates deep within there is a theme of  two-ness (2). In Korea’s case this will be a question of a family divided, the brothers and sisters from whom they are separated.  This two-ness (separation) is in the context of the 8. The two parts remain connected in a bigger picture. 8 contains two parts. Within its shape there is a flow. 8 offers the potential of harmonising - when the 8 flows smoothly there is harmony between its two halves.

The South Korean flag

At heart the Koreans are one people who have been tragically driven apart. The Korean war, just as the Syria one today, was driven by forces larger than the local population. Regional powers, competing global ideologies, were at play. From this perspective i offer here a poetic interpretation of the South Korean flag.

It shows a body (Korea) divided, Red and Blue face each other, locked together in a dynamic tension. North and South? Communist and Capitalist? The labels don’t matter, it is the underlying dynamic which counts. What i find particularly expressive here though are the four symbols surrounding the centre. They appears as external, powerful forces. Blocks of energy which surround and influence the drama at the centre. In the context of the Korean situation i am seeing these as the global powers and ideologies that have an interest in Korea. (In the symbology of Tao these four symbols represent  Fire and Water. Earth and Sky - fundamental and defining forces).

In addition I would add that the apparent division of red and blue, is only superficial. In truth they are both part of one wholeness, the same circle. I think this is the Koreans own deep understanding of the situation. As my Korean students told me, those on the other side are our brothers and sisters.

Geography creates Psychology

Before we look at the North Korean telephone number i need to share my insight about the Korean psychology that arises from the geography of their land. The seed of this insight was planted when my organiser of that time, Mr Lee, told me that Korea had been invaded so many times in its history. Korea is a peninsula, a finger of land extending from the Chinese mainland into the sea. In previous times, whenever an army have came down from the north the options for escape were small. The only direction to escape was south, but the further south one went the more the pressure grew to turn and fight. Ultimately only the sea would be before those running away. It gave me the idea that the southernmost tip, Pusan, would be the most compressed, the most reactive, the most “stand and fight”, place in Korea. In short it would be red and thus i understood. that the southern tip of the peninsula would be the base chakra of Korea.

Following on from this, the idea came that if Korea were invaded from the water, from the south, then, as the armies moved northwards they would be moving up into the throat of the country. There is no red finishing point at the top end of the country, rather it opens into the Chinese mainland. One could flee further, but to do so would be to leave the distinctive culture and landscape of the Korean peninsula. For this reason i think that as one fled north to escape danger  there would be a tightening impulse. The Koreans could run further, but this time they choose to stay and hold on as an act of will. It is a blue, conservative impulse rather than a red absolute survival issue.

This idea of becoming blue, conservative, holding on, i could imagine as fitting with the way North Korea has developed since the Korean split. I can imagine that the North Koreans, tightening as they withdrew, would see themselves as the true guardians of Korean culture. I can imagine that the North would see the South as having been compromised, overrun by alien values and / or its lack of them. Even if, to my eyes the Koreans in the south, still maintain a strong sense of their identity and culture. In one of the Asian financial crises i remember reading that the South Koreans were handing in their personal gold to the government in order to save the national economy!

The North Korean Flag

If my theory is correct in general then i can offer a poetic interpretation of the North Korean flag too. The flag shows a red central strip bordered by blue above and below. Perhaps it is the sea surrounding the land? Or perhaps the tightening of blue discipline that holds the red force within. There is a single red star in the central red strip. I see this star as representing the true Korean spirit, defiant, singular, existing in noble isolation.

North Korea is 850

With this detour into flags and land and culture complete, lets return to the subject of telephone numbers. North Korea is 850. I see this as indicating the Equilibrium bottles B8 Yellow / Blue followed by B50 Pale Blue / Pale Blue. I find this intensification of blue themes in the Pale Blue so fitting for North Korea.

Firstly it resonates with the theme of conservative and holding on which has just been discussed.

Secondly blue has a strong association with father / authority,  both of which North Korea displays in abundance. The North Korean leadership is intensely authoritarian. Since the Korean war there has only been one family  ruling the country. Three men, each of whom has been seen in their time of leadership  as the Father of the Nation, towering over the ordinary people. Only in extreme moments such as the death of a leader will the opposite energy, orange, suddenly burst out. There was great surprise in the UK to see the images of North Koreans crying so uncontrollably when Kim Jung-il died in 2011? Orange is the opposite of blue and supports letting go.

Finally blue is associated with distance and withdrawal. Just as mountains in the distance take on a blue haze, the North Koreans can only be seen from afar. They are not in the community of the world.

All of these fit well with the quantity and intensity of blue implied in the 850 international prefix code. There is however an even more hidden and interesting dimension to the North Korean telephone situation.

381 The One who is Locked Up

The fact is that even dialling +850 will not enable you to reach a North Korean citizen. Only a few special numbers in North Korea can actually receive overseas calls. These numbers are marked by a special internal code which follows the international access of 850. This special code is 381.

This was the information that inspired me to write this article. 381. I choose to beak this combination down into a 38 and a 1. Lets look at these two as Equilibrium bottles. B38 is one of the two Violet and Green combinations known as the Troubadour bottles. When green is uppermost in B17 it represents freedom and travelling in the world with a purpose. When Violet is over the Green, it suggests the opposite experience, that of being locked up, deprived of freedom, a fate which sometimes befell the Troubadours as they travelled around Europe. Number-wise we can say that while 3 is flow, the 8 behind is locked up within itself, unable to find its way out. Behind the 38 is the 1; the 1 in the tower, in the castle dungeon, the one who is separated from the outside world. This 381 very well describes the North Korean citizen, unable to go freely into the world.


Finally i return to the South Korean number + 82 for one last thought. The bottle name is Calypso. Calypso is not just a style of music (the original idea behind the naming of this bottle), Calypso is also the name of a nymph (lady) who appears in Homer’s ancient Greek myth of the Odyssey. Odysseus lands on her island during his long journey home. She has been waiting for one with whom to share her world. She offers him a partnership, one that excludes everyone else; let us together on this island, forget the world, let us live happily ever after she urges. This deep wish to be together beyond everything else could be the Koreans deepest wish. They have been pawns in a bigger game for many years now. As global power relationships are now in change the Koreans may have the chance to come together at last.

Hand in Hand

My two abiding images from this momentous day both fit this narrative They are moments of private human togetherness beyond any formality. The first happened in the first minute of their meeting. The historic handshake at the borderline had just been photographed from both sides, the two leaders were about to walk to their scheduled meetings in South Korea, when Kim Jong-un appeared to suggest to the South Korean leader, why don’t we step over into my country for a moment. Kim took Moon’s hand and like two young schoolchildren they stepped together into the North. It was a moment of magic, so natural and friendly that the press corps and officials looking on broke into spontaneous applause and happy laughter.

Their meetings went all day long and  finished with a concert and fireworks. Once again, at the finale, the two leaders could be seen standing together, hand in hand, this time for a good minute or two. It is impossible for me to imagine western leaders standing together so. this expression of simple human togetherness.

I think this story of Calypso is closer to the heart of Korea than we in the outside western world can realise. The Koreans are one people, one family, who have been divided due to external influences. Deep down, their coming together again is more nourishing and healing than any external compensation. It will be a private joy that will be directed toward each other. We outside will only be able to look in and wonder. I for one wish them all the very best in their journey of reunification and peace.

© Dominic Yeoman

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