The history of Korean Hanbok
In the past, only the upper class (yangban) was allowed to wear colourful silk made hanbok. It was made of precious materials while the common people had to wear white traditional clothes, sometimes pastel colours were allowed. That is why Koreans used to be called by their neighbours The white-clad race.
Officially, Koreans wore hanbok until the end of the Korean War (1953) when they changed it to Western-style clothes. However, there is no Korean who has not worn at least once in his life hanbok. During special occasions such as weddings, first-birthday parties (doljanchi), Lunar NewYear, etc. Koreans, especially women will be wearing colourful traditional clothes. Nowadays it is more common to see young Koreans who rent hanbok and visit different historical places (mostly palaces).
Moreover, new fashion designers created modernized hanboks adapted more to the Millennium Koreans’ needs. It is cheaper and more practical to wear than it used to be. This kind of clothes is ideal for busy modern-day people who pursue fun. You can always walk along Korean palaces and see young couples wearing hanbok and taking pictures. And I must admit that this makes the palace even more authentic because it gives you the feeling that you were transported in the past.
Even though Hanbok lost its meaning and tradition, Koreans do appreciate it. If in the past, the hierarchy was strict, and only the upper class afforded expensive clothes, nowadays everyone can purchase good quality hanbok. Namdaemun Korea`s biggest traditional market, Dongdaemun, sell hanok at lower prices that you will see in department stores.
Since 1996, Koreans have celebrated Hanbok Day.
Symbolism in Korea traditional clothes
Being an agriculture-oriented country and influenced by China, the Korean Peninsula accorded a lot of importance to rites and nature. This materialized in the creation of different symbols which were taken extremely serious by Koreans. For example, as I mentioned earlier, hanbok is colourful, but this actually has an interesting explanation. It is not only about decoration but there is a whole philosophy that surrounds Korean traditional clothes. Animals, trees, plans, mountains were used as motifs on the hanbok because they were considered to bring good luck, longevity, integrity, prosperity, fertility, protection, chases away malevolent spirits, etc. Blue / Green is for East, White for West, Red for South, black for North and Yellow-Brown for the Center. Saekdong is the type of hanbok that respects this colours and integrates them.
Traditional women’ hanbok consists of jeogori (a blouse, jacket) and chima (skirt) while the men` hanbok is composed by jeogori and baji (loose trousers).
Renting traditional clothes in Korea
In recent years, Korean culture enjoyed a lot of popularity not only in Asia but around the world. Foreigners became more and more interested in Korean cuisine and traditional clothes once they fell in love with Korean historical dramas. That is why Korea and its capital is very tourists friendly. Wearing a hanbok while in Korea became a must. Around the historical hotspots and not only there are many places that rent hanbok and the prices vary from 7 dollars to 30 dollars. What is interesting is that if you wear hanbok you can get free entrance at the Korean palaces. As there are five palaces and the entrance fee for them is around 15 dollars I think by renting a hanbok you can make a good deal especially if you are travelling on a budget.
Personally, I have tried hanbok many times, whenever I got the opportunity and I must admit that I loved it. Hanbok`s design is very feminine and graceful. It reflects the long history of the Korean peninsula and by trying it out you get a wider spectre of Koren culture and not only.
Already tried the hanbok? You are now ready to relax at a Korean sauna!