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Thursday, 5 June 2014

Hyeonpung Kwak Ancestral Shrine, Dalseong County, Daegu Metropole: Origins of General Kwak Jae-woo


The Hyeonpung Kwak Ancestral Shrine (Hanja/Romanization: 玄風郭氏12旌閭閣/Hyeonpung Gwak-ssi Sib-i Jeongnyeogak) in 3 Jidong Alley/Jidong-gil, Jiri 1348-2 beonji, Hyeonpung-myeon, Dalseong County, Daegu Metropole was built during the reign of King Yeongjo in the 18th century to commemorate twelve ancestors of the Hyeonpung Kwak Clan who were awarded national recognition.

A jeongnyeo (旌閭) was a prize for people who conducted good deeds such as loyalty, filial respect, chastity, etc. It was a very rare thing for one clan to receive 12 Jeongnyeo prizes. The steles of the 12 ancestors are located at the shrine “Jeongryeogak”, which has been designated as Cultural Material of Daegu Metropole No. 29 in May 12th 1995.

During the Joseon dynasty, Confucianism was the fundamental code of conduct for people from all walks of life. In particular, the families of the yangban gentry class were rewarded for their conformity to Confucian manners and customs as specified in the book Samgang Oryun ("Three Fundamental Priciples and Five Relationships"). The book elaborates on the most desirable human relations between soverign and subjects, parents and chidlren, husbands and wives, elders and youth, and between friends. 

In order to promote Confucianism and encourage good deeds, the government rewarded people who behaved in accordance with the Samgang Oryun by putting up a red gate, called a Jeongmun, or a monument known as a Jeongnyeo-gak in front of their home or at the entrance of their village.

This Jeongnyeo-gak is a structure protecting the collection of 12 Jeongnyeo tablets that were awarded to the Hyeonpung lineage of the Kwak Clan living in Solye-chon from 1598 (the end of Japanese Imjin Invasion) through the mid 18th-century. Though the building was damaged during the Korean war with one of the pavilions completely destroyed, repair work in 1963 restored them to their original form. A signpost erected on the site by the Korean Office of Cultural Properties notes that "The fact that as many as 12 Jeongnyeo tablets were awarded to the Kwak Clan from one village is surely something for them to be proud of".

At the Ancestral Residence of the Hyeonpung Kwak clan, several bus loads of relatives descend on the house every spring. Even ten hands are not enough to make sure that each and every one of these relatives is served their fill of food and liquor. Yet even though she might stay up all night dozens of times each year to prepare for ancestral rituals, and would go hungry while serving relatives and visitors, one wife of the family head said that if she were to be born into this world again, she would gladly do all of this again. The fact that she has married off her daughters to other jongga provides a glimpse into just how proud she is to be the wife of a family head.

In this way, the unwavering resolve of these family heads and their wives, while diligently fulfilling their roles as the heads of their clan in a dignified manner, and always considering “us” and never “me,” provide an exemplary model for weaker-willed modern-day Koreans. It is the staying power of these noble families that has enabled them to carry on their family lines from eldest son to eldest son, while in many cases residing in a centuries-old traditional house.


Overview of Hyeonpung Kwak Clan
Hyeonpung Kwak Clan (현풍 곽씨/玄風郭氏) was founded in 1138 (16th Reigning Year of King Injong of Goryeo Dynasty) by a Goryeo Official who is known as Kwak Gyeong (곽경/郭鏡). This clan is also known as Posan Kwak Clan (포산 곽씨/苞山郭氏), where the bon-gwan (designated clan) 'Posan' was an old name for the Commune of Hyeonpung-myeon, Dalseong County, Daegu Metropole.

Based on 2000 Korean Republic Population Census, there are 140,283 Korean Residents who orginated from Hyeonpung Kwak Clan. Hyeonpung Kwak Clansmen are sighted in four notable cities and a county around South Korea: Gyeonggi-Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi-Yeoju, Gangwon-Wonju, Chungbuk-Cheongju, Jeonnam-Jindo and Gyeongnam-Hapcheon.

Notable Hyeonpung Kwak Clansmen are:
  • Red-Robed General Chung-ik Kwak Jae-woo (곽재우/郭再祐), Joseonese General who saved Korea against Japanese Forces during Imjin Invasion (1592~1598) by using guerrilla tactics
  • Kwak Wol (곽월/郭越), father of Red-Robed General Chung-ik Kwak Jae-woo
  • Kwak Yul (곽율), Joseonese Official who killed in action during first round of Imjin Invasion in 1593
  • Kwak Joon (곽준/郭遵), Joseonese Official who killed in action during second round of Imjin Invasion in 1597
  • Kwak Sang-hoon (곽상훈/郭尙勳), Korean Independence Activist and Speaker of the National Assembly of Korean Republic (Gukhoe) for 4th and 5th sessions in the Second Republic
  • Kwak Tae-hwi (곽태휘/郭泰輝), South Korean Soccer Player in position Center-Back
  • Kwak Jeong-wook (곽정욱/郭正旭), Korean Actor
  • Kwak Jeong-sook (곽정숙/郭貞淑), Korean Politician