Young Koreans Embrace Traditional Dress

      March 26, 2016 08:10

      Hanbok or traditional Korean dress is becoming all the rage among young Koreans amid similar trends in other Asian countries.

      Free-spirited youngsters rediscover traditional Korean culture and reinterpret it to fit their tastes. They can be seen walking around city landmarks like Gyeongbok Palace and the traditional Bukchon and Insa-dong neighborhoods of Seoul, taking selfies and often gladly posing for photos with tourists.

      Students in hanbok take a selfie at Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul.

      Many of them rent their hanbok. Jeon Su-ji (22), who rented a hanbok with her boyfriend, said, "The bright colors turn out great in photos."

      But online hanbok purchases by women have also been rising since 2014. The growth trend stands out among women in their 20s in particular, growing 30 percent in 2014 and 21 percent last year.

      Sales in May are twice as high as during the traditional holidays such as New Year's Day or Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving. Sales of men's hanbok were dwindling until 2014, but jumped a whopping 78 percent last year.

      Many online shopping malls now sell hanbok modernized to suit a younger generation, shortening skirts and using light cotton fabrics.

      One owner of a hanbok rental store in Seoul said, "I opened the store to target tourists, but I was surprised to see more local customers walk through the doors."

      Kim Nam-hee, who owns the nation's biggest everyday-wear hanbok manufacturer Dolsilnai, said, "Attitudes have changed. In the past, young people stayed away from hanbok shops, but now they're swarming in."

      Students in hanbok in Insa-dong, Seoul

      Hanbok has changed from the staid holiday attire of yesteryear. Dolsilnai launched a new line of hanbok three years ago targeting young customers, and sales rose 2.5 times over the last three years and are expected to triple this year.

      What has changed? "Unlike the older generation, young Koreans are free-spirited and not bound by traditional ways of thinking," says Park Gil-sung at Korea University. "The older generation may think young Koreans are donning hanbok out of nostalgic patriotism, but this is incorrect."

      Choi Jeong-cheol, who promotes hanbok for the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said, "Korean culture has become a trendy subject among young Koreans due to the global popularity of Korean pop culture. We need to continue developing new contents so that this trend will not be short-lived."

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