The history of Korean Hanbok
Hanbok is the traditional Korean dress with a history that dates back to the Three Kingdoms of Korea period. The Korean hanbok has undergone many fashion changes over the different dynasties in Korea. Thus, when one refers to the modern and popular Korean hanbok, he is actually referring to the design and style of the traditional Korean costume during the Joseon Dynasty.
Hanbok used to be a daily outfit for people back in the Joseon era. It was designed for comfort and ease of movement. In recent years, it has become a costume that people wore only during festive occasions and thus it incorporates more vibrant and colorful designs. With globalization and the introduction of modern outfits like T-shirts and pants, the hanbok also slowly lost its value as an everyday wear option. The hanbok industry thus began to decline.
The Korean government attempt to revive the hanbok industry
Although Korean locals might not be wearing the hanbok every often nowadays, the Korean government knows the value of their culture and understand how it intrigues tourists. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism encourages tourists to wear and take photos in hanboks at heritage sites. In fact, the entrance fee to the Korean palaces is free of charge if you wear a traditional Korean hanbok! As the trend to wear hanbok to palaces get more popular, Korean locals also ride on the wave to do the same too! Therefore, not only can you see many tourists wearing the hanbok in palaces, you can find many Koreans doing the same too nowadays!
Hanbok as school uniform?
Last year, the Culture Ministry and Ministry of Education signed a memorandum of understanding on the school uniform project. For that they designed school uniforms based on the hanbok.
(The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism)
They did this to preserve the traditional clothing style. This year, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism informed its plan to adopt hanbok-inspired school uniforms and even photoshoots have been taken. Thus, don’t be surprised to see school children wearing modified Korean hanbok style uniforms the next time you visit Korea!
The rise of Korean hanbok due to Kpop songs and kdramas
In recent times, K-pop and K-dramas have come to hanbok's rescue. Korean period dramas on Netflix like ‘Mr. Sunshine’ and ‘Kingdom’ have become popular. They have drummed up interest in Korean culture and tradition globally. You can see the evolution of hanbok through these historical dramas. You will notice how the fabrics and shapes change over the years.
BTS and Blackpink lead the modern hanbok fashion
In addition, K-Pop idols like Blackpink and BTS have made hanbok a new trendy fashion item. They did this by incorporating hanbok in their music videos. K-Pop has become a way for the global audience to get a glimpse of traditional Korean culture. This has encouraged all K-pop fans to explore Korea’s traditional beauty.
Modern hanbok incorporates streetwear fashion
The MZ generation (millennials and Gen-Z) only got attracted to hanbok due to K-Pop. K-Pop's MVs inspire the modern hanbok designs. The original form of hanbok is quite simple and boring for the new generation, who is into streetwear brands. They want to stay up-to-date with the trendy Korean fashion trends. But, the modern hanbok comprises of fashion style like crop style and bold colors. Blackpink’s and BTS’s unique twists to the age-old outfit inspired these designs. It has changed MZ generation's perspective on the traditional Korean clothing. It also gives them a chance to add their own individuality to the traditional costume
With Hanbok Day just over in October, let’s look at this traditional clothing with a modern lens. The hanbok featured in the MVs of K-Pop songs has made it tasteful for the contemporary Korean fashion world. It does this by extracting some beauty elements from the traditional hanbok, yet improvising on it for a fresh look.
5 K-Pop MVs that Bring Hanbok back into the Spotlight
Thanks to K-Pop idols and their MVs, the forgotten traditional hanbok is back. It has transformed into a trendy fashion clothing. It now appeals to the younger generation in Korea and also the overseas tourists hit by the Hallyu wave.
How You Like That - Blackpink catches attention with shin-hanbok
Blackpink is the K-Pop group of four acclaimed sweethearts of YG Entertainment. They might not be the first ones to infuse elements of traditional Korean clothes into K-Pop, but they sure made a huge impact. Blackpink’s MV of their mega-hit song ‘How You Like That’ gained worldwide attention. It featured hip music, visual appeal and shin-hanboks (new hanboks).
At the dance break section of Blackpink “How You Like That”, all 4 members were wearing the traditional Korean clothing. Unlike the usual hanboks, there is also cropped top designs and also the use of sheer material. It was really difficult to bring your attention away from that scene!
Check out the interview with Danha, the hanbok designer who supplied the hanbok to Blackpink here!
Blackpink shin-hanboks also provoked some controversy. The kpop idol group wore a modified style of the male traditional Korean costumes. Netizens commented that hanboks were not supposed to be this colorful and flashy. Some also said that this style looks more like Kimono, the traditional Japanese costume. However, there are a lot more people commending the inclusion of Korean traditional costume in the Blackpink MV. Overseas BLINKS also gained interest in the traditional Korean hanboks! In fact, the group attracted a lot of global interest in Korean traditional costumes that Danha hanbok store saw a huge increase in the number of visitors! Blackpink even wore the same hanbok for their live stage-performance on the Jimmy Fallon’s The Tonight Show. This introduced even more people to the Korean traditional costume.
IDOL - BTS MV infuse many Korean cultural elements
BTS's MV of IDOL brings fans an authentic Korean experience. Many Korean elements were included in the MV – Did you notice them?
The meaning of the tiger in BTS Idol MV
For example, a tiger appeared in the MV. Tiger was a representative animal for Korea. It represents strength and power and is close to the heart of Koreans and their culture. It’s no wonder that the mascot for Seoul Olympics 1988 was a tiger. In fact, the mascot for Korea University and the Korea FootBall Association are tigers too!
BTS hanbok was on exhibition in Gangnam
The appearance of the tiger in the BTS Idol MV might not ring a bell to overseas ARMY fans, but other elements were much more obvious. BTS members wore the Korean hanbok and danced in a computer-generated yellow pavilion. The clothing is a modified form of the Durumagi, which was a jacket worn by Korean men in the past.
When the MV came out, foreign media was quick to report on BTS promoting their cultural traditions. Many fans all over the world praised it for the cultural insight. The hanboks worn by the 7 member BTS idol group were also on display at the Gangnam Tourist Information Center at Sinsa-dong in 2018.
Daechwita – Agust D (Suga) showcases traditional korean music
Earlier in May this year, BTS’ member, Suga, donned various hanbok outfits that made him look fit for a prince. It was in the MV of his D-2 mixtape track, Daechwita which he went by the artiste name Agust D.
The music video can be said to be one of the Korean song MV that contained the most elements of traditional Korean music and visuals. Even the South Korean Culture Minister praised this song. It holds elements of Korean tradition and makes Korean proud of their culture.
The song name is called Daechwita, which means Korean traditional military band music. As the song begins, you can hear "Myeonggeumilha Daechwita". It is the call for the band to begin the Daechwita. Agust D wore a black and gold hanbok. The MV set was in a Korean palace and also historical setup of Korea. Unlike other Korean song MVs which featured only the visual aspect, Daechwita featured the Korean traditional music as the background music throughout the entire song.
International army fans are welcoming of the many Korean elements showcased in the music video. It is refreshing mix of traditional korean music, costume and set infused into the modern hip hop style music and rap. They also become interested in the Korean culture and also the Korean hanbok.
Shangri-La - VIXX Oriental Fantasy displayed with Confucian hanbok
VIXX made their comeback in May 2017 with their music video of Shangri-La. It was completely influenced by East Asian history, mythology and traditional clothing. Although the song title in English is Shangri-La, it is slightly different from the original Korean meaning. Shangri-La means an imaginary paradise on earth but it is difficult to relate to the elements that appeared throughout VIXX song with the English interpretation.
If we were to look at the original song title in Korean, it is 도원경(桃源境). It means Peach Blossom Spring. It was derived from a Chinese fable written by Tao Yuanming in AD 421, which referred to an ethereal utopia. This oriental utopia was depicted with peach, pine trees, flowers, mountains and water. These will help you to relate to the many Oriental elements that appeared in this VIXX music video. The set up of the entire song is an Eastern paradise.
(Peach Blossom Spring - China Online Museum)
The song commences with Gayageum music, which was the traditional Eastern piano. It also showcases members sitting in round frames – these are the usual frames you would see in Oriental gardens, which emphasize on rounder edges. There are also many scenes where flowers, peaches, pine trees and mountains were featured.
To add to the Oriental aesthetic to the song, the VIXX members donned on modernized Confucian scholar hanboks. Confucian is the value system that Korea is based on since the past, and scholars were highly revered. Besides, they were also carrying Oriental fans while dancing on the set with water. The VIXX agency wanted to use the melody and lyrics to draw a beautiful Oriental picture. Can you feel it?
Baam - Momoland hanbok encourages an exchange of cultures
Baam was the title track of Momoland’s 4th mini album ‘Fun to the World’. The MV concept was that the girls of Momoland travel across countries. And also through different time periods. Thus, the traditional costumes like Vietnam Ao Dai dress and Egypt costume were featured. Momoland’s members also dressed in colorful traditional hanbok costumes too.
This song not only showcased the Momoland girls dancing in various traditional costumes, it also encouraged an exchange of cultures. This is because everyone is dancing to the same song regardless of where they are in the world. It encompasses the essence of Kpop and to spread the korean culture to the world. Some korean elements like the palace fans and calligraphy scenes were also included.
The "K-Pop in public" challenge had people dancing to this Baam song in hanboks or other traditional costumes on the streets!
Many K-Pop idols have embraced the modern hanbok that makes it easier for them to dance in. But this has also raised controversies. Some say the modern hanbok is ruining this traditional costume's place in society. Although, the younger generation is very accepting of these modified hanboks. It lets them fuse the traditional Korean style together with the modern outfits. This way they can come up with unique and cool designs. They are able to express themselves through their culture and fashion choice. What do you think?
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