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Modern Korean Attire


At present, attire can be divided into Western-style dress, which has become the common form of attire throughout the world, and various forms of traditional dress. In Korea, as elsewhere, Western-style clothing is so pervasive that one rarely comes across anyone wearing Korean hanbok in public. The hanbok presently worn can be classified, according to use, as everyday attire, ritual attire and special attire.

First, the hanbok worn by women as everyday attire consists chiefly of: a dress, a petite coat, and undergarments, such as an undershirt (sok chogori), under pants (kojaeng-i), inner skirt (sok ch'ima) and socks (poson). Men's hanbok are made up of chogori, pants, an overcoat (turumagi), vest, outer coat (magoja) and socks (poson). Western accessories such as shoes and handbag are also used. In recent times, Korea's Ministry of Culture and Tourism has launched a campaign encouraging people to wear hanbok. Facilitated by Koreans' fondness for their own traditions, the campaign has promoted the creation of new hanbok styles that are practical for everyday use. At present, hanbok, as everyday attire, is worn chiefly by people over 70-years old and by the general population during special occasions such as holidays, weddings and 60th birthday celebrations.

Second, there is a hanbok worn during rites of passage. Examples include paenae chogori worn by newborn infants, hwarot (loose robe decorated with peonies) worn by a groom as the bride presents gifts to her new parents-in law, wonsam (ritual attire worn by a married woman), chokturi (black, silk headpiece worn by women), hairpieces, taenggi (pigtail ribbons), and soon. During traditional weddings, the man wears a large robe known as a tannyong over his other clothing, a kaktae (traditional belt) and samo (tall cap with round projections of the left and right).

During funerals, the corpse is clothed in special attire. The clothing design is the same as that of weddings, but natural-colored hemp is used instead. Women from the deceased person's family wear white skirts and coats. Third, there is special attire worn during all traditional rituals and related events.

As seen above, the hanbok design is characterized by a two-piece outfit without pockets and buttons that is held closed with strings, belts or cords. In traditional ondol houses, people sit on the warm floor, thus the legs of the lower garment tend to be baggy. Hanbok colors are based on naturl hues which are interpreted according to East Asian theories of Cum-yang (Chin., yin-yang) and the five elements. The female aspect is represented by Cum, yin and likewise the lower garment is given an Cum, yin color. Yang represents the male aspect as well as upper and outer garments. White garments, which the Korean people have always been very fond of, indicate the Koreans' simple and pure aesthetic sense.

Unlike most of the world's peoples, Koreans have managed to preserve the basic design of their traditional attire up through the modern period. Their ability to do so can be attributed to their strong sense of national identity.

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