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Friday, 8 April 2016

The Grand Order of Mugunghwa: The Most Prestigious Award in the Republic of Korea

The Grand Order of Mugunghwa (Hangul/Hanja/Romanization/Abbreviation: 무궁화대훈장/無窮花大勳章/Mugunghwa Daehunjang/GOM) or also known as The Grand Order of the Rose of Sharon in English is the highest order awarded by the government of the Republic of Korea. It can be awarded to the individuals who are serving or have previously served as the Head of State of the Republic of Korea and its allies, as well as to the spouse of a head of state. The order is instituted on August 13th 1949 and presented for 'Outstanding meritorious services in the interest of promoting the development and security of the Republic of Korea.' The order is traditionally awarded to the President of the Republic of Korea and his/her spouse after their inauguration. At the same time, the President becomes the Grand Master/Mistress of this Grand Order.

The Grand Order of Mugunghwa takes its name from the national flower of Korea, the Rose of Sharon a.k.a hibiscus syriacus. The Rose of Sharon is a cultivar native to the Korean peninsula and has great cultural significance in Korean history. During the Japanese colonial period, the Mugunghwa was engraved in Korean people’s minds as a symbol of the undying soul and spirit of Korea. After all, in Korea, the Mugunghwa has been the flower that gives hopes and dreams even when a person is experiencing pain and sorrow.

The Grand Order of Mugunghwa consists of an insignia of The Royal Crown of Silla Kingdom (57BCE - 935CE) worn from a collar around the neck, a badge suspended from a sash, and a breast star. A lapel badge is also available. The sash of the order is worn from the left shoulder to the right hip. The Grand Order of Mugunghwa is made of gold and silver and includes ruby and amethyst gemstones. The decoration costs approximately 20 million won, or $19,000 U.S. dollars.

The Grand Order of Mugunghwa is traditionally awarded to the incoming President of the Republic of Korea shortly after their inauguration. Before the inauguration, President Roh Moo-hyun decided not to accept the award as is traditional, but to receive it from the incoming president upon his own departure from the office. After their conviction for treason in 1996, the former presidents, Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, were ordered to return the award along with other State decorations that they were awarded. While Chun agreed to return the awards, he and Roh have yet to actually return them.