The South Korean Cultural Heritage Administration announced on Thursday that it will designate hanbok-wearing as a national intangible cultural asset, adding that it needs to be preserved as a cultural property given the significance of hanbok-wearing as a major traditional Korean asset. The news garnered special attention as it came after controversy over Beijing’s history and heritage strategy toward the northeast was stirred by a Chinese performer in hanbok at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics this February. However, the Cultural Heritage Administration dismissed any relationship with conflicts with China.
Even clay-made human or animal figurines, dating back to the Silla dynasty, were found to wear hanbok, which clearly proves that it is a traditional Korean attire. Since the period of the Three Kingdoms, hanbok has consisted of jeogori, an upper piece, and the bottoms. The Muyongchong Mural Painting in the Goguryeo dynasty described an archer wearing jeogori and pants. The mode of hanbok-wearing was established in the Joseon dynasty as it is today. Since 1879 when Korean ports opened to overseas vessels, the name of “hanbok” has started being in use to separate from Western attire.
Around the late 19th century, the spread of Western clothes brought a great change to how Korean people wore. Nevertheless, the roots of hanbok have still been entrenched up to date given the shroud to dress the decreased, the benet jeogori for a newborn and the seolbim on New Year’s Day. The Cultural Heritage Administration did not specify any individual nor organizational holder of the asset because hanbok is upheld and preserved by all Korean people.