Wednesday, May 29

South Korea Angers China for Using Hanbok Dress During Olympic Winter Games

There was a riot between South Korea and China over a woman in typical Korean dress performed at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing. Seoul accuses Beijing of appropriating essential elements of Korean culture. Beijing says the woman was supposed to represent the Korean minority.


There is a hair in the butter between South Korea and China, and this time it has nothing to do with missiles from communist North Korea. However, with a “hanbok”, a traditional dress that was worn during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

China then presented members of the numerous minorities in traditional attire. Much importance was attached to this, largely to ward off international criticism of the oppression of minorities such as the Uyghurs, Tibetans, Mongols and other groups.

It was precisely this attempt that failed the South Koreans. The ceremony also featured a woman wearing a “hanbok,” a loose-fitting dress typical of Korean culture. According to South Korea, China thus appropriates an important cultural item; Beijing sees it differently and states that the woman symbolized the Korean minority in China. Indeed, just over two million Koreans live in China near the border.

According to Charlotte Gryson of the Korean Cultural Center in Brussels, the issue is very sensitive in South Korea. In “The world today” on Radio 1, she notes that the hanbok is an important symbol of Korean culture. The rather complex dress with a special bow and a short jacket was worn in North and South Korea until the 1960s. (Read more below the photo).

Moreover, it would not be the first time that China has appropriated Korean heritage. Previously, that would have happened with “kimchi”, a Korean dish with fermented vegetables, the national dish on the peninsula.

What may also play a role is that a new president will be elected in South Korea in a few months and that almost all candidates feel called to defend national pride against China.

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