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Hanbok is Crying
[359호] 2015년 03월 18일 (수) Reporter Lee Ji-a jiailk0809@
   
In 2010 a program introduced an old woman. She wears a Hanbok everyday even when she sleeps. But when she walks around, most people that see her are surprised. It shows wearing a Hanbok these days is rare. Koreans wear Hanboks only on big holidays like New Year’s Day and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving day) or for weddings and funerals. The Hanbok market is just two percent of the total fashion industry in Korea.
By contrast, in Japan it is common to see people wearing Kimono or Yukata. They often wear it in festivals and holidays and even on weekdays. Japan and Korea both belong to Eastern culture and have developed together. Then what makes this difference? Some people may think a Kimono or Yukata is more comfortable than a Hanbok. But this is certainly not true. Japanese walk with quick step because of a Kimono’s tight hemline, whereas Hanboks are wide. Also, there are over three hundreds of ways to wear a Kimono and it is difficult to put on without assistance.
Media Exposure
In Japan, over half of dramas or movies have at least one scene in which a female character wears Yukata or Kimono. They are described so beautifully and male characters seem to fall in love whenever they encounter the women in these tradition dresses. These scenes appeal to young women strongly. Also Japanese traditional clothes appear frequently in animation, a lot of which is popular among foreigners. But in Korean dramas or movies, it is hard to find anyone wearing a Hanbok. If someone wears a Hanbok, it is almost always old women in a ceremony or young women getting married. In holidays, idols and actresses sometimes appear wearing a Hanbok. When they emcee the show, the Hanbok sometimes becomes an obstacle and the scene is suddenly interrupted by a commercial. It can inculcate a sense of discomfort associated with wearing a Hanbok.
Designers’ Efforts
Japanese designers often appear in fashion shows. They show modified traditional clothes that are more convenient, comfortable, and fashionable. Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake are key examples. But Korea does not have famous designers who present Hanboks to world, except Lee Young Hee. But some designers show more comfortable Hanbok that can machine washed since they are made of natural material instead of silk.
Government’s Influence
The royal family wears selected Kimonos when for royal weddings and important events. They recommend famous stars from other countries to wear Kimonos when they interview with media and take photo shoots. At one time, markets in Dongdaemoon were very crowded with people shopping for Hanboks in Korea, too. The presidents’ and dignitaries’ wives often came to official meetings wearing Hanboks, and it had big impact on the popularity of Hanboks. The government is now trying to bring Hanboks back in style. The National Assembly is pushing forward with establishing dates when anyone wearing a Hanbok gets a discount on the entry fee of public establishments.
University students are also trying to revitalize interest in Hanboks. On September or October every year “Hanbok Day” is held in Jeonju Hanok Village. This event has spread to four cities—Ulsan, Busan, Daegu and Daejeon. Unless young people’s attitude toward the Hanbok changes, it could disappear in the distant future. The Hanbok is always waiting for Korean love.
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