What I’ve discovered
Students are usually quite pleased that this pattern meaning is short, however the legend of Dan-Gun is quite complex:
It is believed that the earliest Korean people came from Manchuria, China and Mongolia and that these separate peoples collectively became known as ancient Korea or Chosun, (also Joseon) meaning ‘The Land of the Morning Calm’. The most powerful of these peoples were the Bear Totem family where it is argued the legend of Dan-Gun began.
There are two ancient texts that refer to the legend of Dan-Gun and these are the ‘Samguk-Sagi’ 12th Century written by Kim Pu-Sik and the ‘Samguk-Yusa’ late 13th Century written by the Buddhist Monk Ilyon, but even these ancient texts are many thousands of years after the events described.
The legend of Dan-Gun was revived in order to help to maintain a national identity in the face of the constant threats of invasion from China, Japan and Mongolia after the 12th Century.
The number three is very important in Korea and considered to be very lucky; this is why 2333B.C. was assumed as the year of Korea’s founding.
Dan-Gun day is celebrated on the 3rd October each year.
The Legend itself speaks of the Son of the Creator, Hwanung (also Whan-Ung), who came to earth and lived atop Mount Paektu, with his 3 Generals and 3000 followers. (Note the use of the number 3 here)
It is said that he one day overheard a Bear and a Tiger talking and wishing that they themselves could become human. Hwanung gave them 20 pieces of garlic and some mugwort to eat and told them to retire from the sunlight for 100 days (sometimes recorded as 21 or 40).
The Tiger could not complete the task and emerged early from the cave.
It is said that only the bear’s nature allowed it to endure the task and that as a reward after 21 days
(or 3 weeks), the bear was turned into a woman.
The woman’s first wish was to have a child and Hwanung also heard this and granted her wish. That child was Dan-Gun the legendary founder of Korea, known as the human form of Hwanung.
Dan-Gun is said to have united the peoples of Korea into the nation known as the Kingdom of Ancient Chosun, eventually leading the people south from his first residence on Mount Paektu, Dan-Gun established his capital at Asadal (now Pyongyang) in 2333 B.C.
Dan-Gun is said to have ruled for 1,500 years.
Ilyon claimed that when the Chinese King Wu of Chou put Kija on the throne of Korea, Dan-Gun eventually returned from Asadal, and at the age of 1,908 became a mountain god.
In the face of continuous threats of foreign domination the legend of Dan-Gun, was instrumental in reviving national unity after the twelfth century.
N.B. Gom in Korean means King, but in Old Korean Gom also meant Bear.
The legend is therefore thought to originate from the ancient Bear Totem Clan.
The three punches philosophically represent the 3 weeks the bear fasted.
On a more practical level, 3 punches to the same target would be devastating.
In his encyclopaedia General Choi told us:
Dan-Gun is named after the Holy Dan-Gun,
the legendary founder of Korea in the year 2333 B.C.