May 1, 2011
Korean Kites - from Practical to Magical
Rhee Kitae

The most popular Korean kite, a "shield" kite, is called 'Yeon'. It is rectangular, made from five bamboo sticks, and covered with traditional Korean mulberry paper. It is always in the strict proportion of 2 by 3. It has a circular hole in the center, with a diameter half the width of the kite. This opening functions as an efficient air control device.

Fourteen hundred years ago, the Koreans were using kites.

Korean history details how in 637 AD, a kite was lofted into the night sky with a burning cotton ball attached. The supertitious people, on the edge of a rebellion, thought it was a star soaring up into the sky and that their misfortunes would soon come to a close. Maybe that's why we still do night flies...

Another general in Korean history used kites for shooting fire arms in the 14th-century. Track down a program called The ReInventors for a great profile of that!

In the 16th century, the Korean military successfully used kites with different pictures to signal tactics and strategic instructions while fighting Japanese invaders. Bold images sent messages like "Attack at Dawn" or "Move Against the Right Flank".

Korean Signal Kites

While visiting Korea this spring, we were privileged to visit the Korean Kite Association Museum in Seoul. President Rhee Kitae introduced us to a series of exquisite artistic kites. For more information on Rhee, click here.

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Check out kitemaking in Mr. Rhee's workshop.

The Yeon is typically flown as a single-line maneuverable or 'fighter' kite. Controlled by a large spoked reel, they are remarkably fast and agile. I've seldom seen a skilled Yeon flier defeated by Indian or Afghan style fighters.

BTW - several years back, I was asked to provide technical support to a book on Korean kiting. Track down a copy of The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park. The book is intended for younger readers. But it nicely conveys the pleasures and rewards both of building and decorating a fine kite and of conducting that kite through its conversation with the wind.

Monday I'm off one more time for an international trip. Team Gomberg will be in Qatar for a few days flying on the Persian Gulf. So check back next week for another Update report.

Kite Fighters

GKPI Has now expanded our SkyForm line to include a 250 square foot model.

The Skyform 3 measures 14 x 18 feet. The kite features eight cells and five keels. Choose one of these patterns or substitute your own custom colors.

We've priced the #3 at $750. Order before May 15 and we'll drop the price 20%. Just remember to mention the Update Special.

SkyForm 3

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