Of the flags organized for nongak (farmers’ music), the command flag (yeonggi) is deployed at the front of a nongak troupe with the farming flag (nonggi) and leads the way or serves as a messenger. The flag bears the Chinese character 令 (Kor. yeong), meaning “command.”
Although yeonggi is mentioned as one of the military flags in the book on strategy “Sokbyeongjangdoseol” (Kor. 속병장도설, Chin. 續兵將圖說, lit. Illustrated Manual of Military Training and Tactics) written in the 18th century, it is not certain when it started to be used in nongak. However, in the Joseon Dynasty, when famers were also considered soldiers in times of need, the yeonggi as a device to deliver commands would have had an influence on nongak.
The command flag used in nongak and that used as a military flag have some differences. The military command flag consists of a flag pole made of solid wood with a single-edged spear at the tip, and rectangular flag two meters wide. The characteristic of the command flag is seen in the flag itself. In color it is red on a blue background or vice versa and written on it is the Chinese character 令. The command flag used in nongak, though similar to the military flag, has its own characteristics. First, at the end of the pole is a three-pronged spear (trident) rather than a one-edged spear. Underneath it is an ornament called jijeon or some other shamanic ornaments. Second, the flag pole is made of light bamboo rather than solid wood. Third, the flag is rectangular or triangular with a similar width to the military flag, but depending on region, a fringe of triangles (jinebal, lit. centipede legs) is attached around the edges. Aside from red and blue various other colors are used, including black, white, and yellow.
The command flag, symbolizing the authority of the nongak troupe, delivers news or leads the way. The Chinese character written on the flag, 令, means “command.” Overall, it is small in size, making it mobile. In some regions, it serves as a divine post on which the spirits descend. In Haenam, Jeollanam-do Province, the command flag (marked 令) is recognized as the divine flag (marked 靈, meaning “deity”). In Haenam, when starting dongje, the rite to pray for the welfare of the village to the tutelary deity, people say they are “raising the deity” when raising the flag, and when finishing they shout they are “taking down the deity” when taking the flag down. Therefore, although the command flag is small, it plays various roles such as conveying the authority of the nongak troupe, leading the way, serving as the military flag and as a divine post.