The sight of these Korean wedding duck magnets piqued my curiosity about the history of refrigerator magnets themselves.
According to Wikipedia, the first patent for a refrigerator magnet design was issued in the early 1970’s but people were making refrigerator magnets well before that time.
Regular magnets work because of their attraction to either the north or south magnetic poles of the earth. One side of a magnet attracts north, the other side attracts south. This is why two magnets usually either attract to each other or repulse each other. Magnets can’t ignore each other and simply exist in the same place like two pieces of paper or two coffee mugs can.
Many modern refrigerator magnets work differently than traditional magnets because one side is magnetic and the other side is non-magnetic. They work on a principle called a Halbach array, which Wikipedia describes as
…a special arrangement of permanent magnets that augments the magnetic field on one side of the array while cancelling the field to near zero on the other side. In the diagram, the magnetic field is enhanced on the bottom side and cancelled on the top side (a one-sided flux).
The Korean weddings ducks have a long and somewhat complicated history. In Korean culture, ducks represent traditional Confucian values like spousal fidelity, loyalty and filial piety. This is why a pair of carved ducks are a very common wedding gift and area even used in part of the traditional Korean wedding ceremony. Most Koreans will display their wedding ducks prominently in the home.
Some couples use the ducks as a silent way of making their happiness or displeasure known. When one the spouses are angry, they may turn their duck’s tail towards the other spouses’ duck to signal anger or displeasure. When the couple are happy and content with each other, they will point them nose to nose.