LIFE&STYLE

What’s next for hanbok?

Hanbok-inspired business casual outfits on show at Culture Station Seoul 284

  • Published : Jun 1, 2021 - 16:02
  • Updated : Jun 1, 2021 - 18:22
Hanbok-inspired business casual outfits are on display at Culture Station Seoul 284 next to Seoul Station on Tuesday. (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)
Korean traditional attire, hanbok, does not have to be limited to young people and travelers wearing them around royal palaces. Hanbok-inspired clothing can be worn at work as well.

That is the premise of a long-term project by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Hanbok Advancement Center launched earlier this year which aims to promote hanbok as everyday wear and books the demand for hanbok.

At an exhibition showcasing business casual attire at Culture Station Seoul 284 in Jung-gu, Seoul, Georgi Ni, a Russian photographer and website developer, carefully moved his camera from one side to the other.

“I came across this event by chance, and thought it would be nice to shoot with my 360-degree camera,” Ni told The Korea Herald at the event, which runs through to June 11.

The outfits looked soothing with a somewhat “foresty” tone, he noted, but the sleeves and collars have a reverent touch to their finish. 

Design details of hanbok-inspired business casual attire (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)
Design details of hanbok-inspired business casual attire (Kim Hae-yeon/ The Korea Herald)
Modernized hanbok, also referred to as gaeryang hanbok in Korean, was often associated with progressive activists and politicians in South Korea in the early 2000s.

By removing or modifying some of the traditional features of hanbok that restricted movement, it was possible to wear modernized hanbok to attend a National Assembly session, participate in rallies and go to school. The wearers made a statement with their attire -- they were known to stand for maintaining traditions and resisting consumption of foreign goods and culture.

Meanwhile, fusion hanbok, otherwise known as fashion hanbok, is a relatively new term that came into use following the success of K-dramas. Directors and writers involved made major changes to the traditional hanbok, to make characters more eye-catching and stylish in a way that would appeal to a wider audience. Most of the hanbok found at hanbok rental shops for tourists are likely to be this kind.

However, a deeply rooted preconception still exists among young South Koreans that hanbok is worn only on special occasions, such as family gatherings, weddings, or traditional ceremonies.

As an effort to shed such image, some middle and high schools have adopted hanbok-inspired school uniforms in a joint project with the Culture Ministry. In the public sector, the last Wednesday of each month was designated “A good day to wear hanbok,“ encouraging employees at the Culture Ministry to wear hanbok of one’s preference.

While opinions are still split on whether designating a special day to encourage wearing hanbok was a good approach, a collection of business casual hanbok developed last year was received favorably and dispelled concerns that they are impractical and uncomfortable as office wear. A total of 64 looks were introduced, varying in shape, size, fabric and form depending on the season.

The Culture Ministry hopes to encourage more business sectors to take up hanbok as office attire, especially organizations that can promote Korea’s image, such as those in the tourism and hospitality industries.

”This year, two of the Korean Culture Centers outside Korea, the UK and Vietnam, have decided to order business casual hanbok. Employees at the National Hangeul Museum will be newly trying out hanbok in the upcoming months,“ Park Ju-young, a project manager at the Hanbok Advancement Center’s business team, told The Korea Herald. Park hopes that the underlying prejudices about hanbok, such as the perceptions of its heavy and impractical material, can be changed through showcases that present hanbok as daily wear.

Designers of the hanbok business casual attire on show will speak about their work at 2 p.m. on Friday at Culture Station Seoul 284. Individual consultation is available by contacting Hanbok Advancement Center at hanbok_uniform@naver.com, or calling (070)-4007-5010.

By Kim Hae-yeon (hykim@heraldcorp.com)
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