Korean Kites

Authors: 
Scott Skinner
Article type: 
Discourse

We wrote a past Kitelife article about a wonderful addition to the Drachen Foundation kite collection: “DF Board president, Scott Skinner, describes how the fifteen kites, all more than a hundred years old, made their way to Drachen. Because of an unexpected and delightful gift in 2000, the Drachen Foundation may hold the oldest specimens of Korean kites extant. The kites were originally bought by or given to Georges Lefevre, French consul to the Orient in the 1890s. They passed within his family to his great-grandchildren, one of whom was Docteur François Fourrière, formerly president of a French kite club. Fourrière was unsure of what to do with these fragile artifacts, and was encouraged by members of Zoone Collectif to gift them to the Foundation. Ramlel Tien and Christophe Cheret, Zoone Collectif members, helped make the exchange complete at the Art Kite Festival in Detmold, Germany.” For many years, the kites graced the walls of the Drachen Foundation study center in Seattle, powerful testaments to the longevity of bamboo and paper.

In remembering this wonderful gift, I thought this might be a good time to look at Korean kites, in particular their use by the Korean navy as signals.

I am almost completely ignorant of first-hand knowledge of Korean kites. So I took an Internet journey to find out more. With a search for “Korean naval kites,” the first good reference came from the CyberFighter website maintained by Gina Hsiung, where there was the following reference: “Admiral Yi Sun-sin used kites in the 16th century as a fast way to inform the naval troops of his strategic instructions, flying kites having different pictures signaling tactics to use…”

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