"Hanbok is the Korean traditional costume."
A post was uploaded by an anonymous writer, who felt displeasure about the response of the Chinese game company Paper Games’ dress up RPG game, Shining Nikki, amid controversy over traditional clothing. The controversy began when Paper Games opened Shining Nikki’s Korean server on October 29 and released the item of Hanbok to celebrate it. Because Paper Games has been accepted by Chinese netizens who claim that traditional Korean costumes appearing in the game should be seen as China’s traditional costume, Korean netizens became angry at this response; hence, such posts like these have been uploaded ever since.
The Controversy of Shinning Nikki
However, several Chinese people insist that Hanbok is a copy of Chinese traditional costume. On Twitter, a few users said, “The Hanbok in this game is similar to the Hanfu (clothes from Ming Dynasty).”, and also mentioned, “Hanbok is the clothing of ethnic Koreans living in China among China's 55 ethnic minorities, so it is the clothes of China,” and so on. Korean netizens reacted angrily to the Chinese netizens' reaction; the government should take some action to preserve our Hanbok.
Korean Traditional Clothes in Chinese Media
There are additional cases arguing that Hanbok is the Chinese traditional costume. Got (Korean traditional hat) and Korean style Manggeon appeared as if they were Chinese traditional costumes in the Chinese drama The Sleuth of the Ming Dynasty(성화 14년). In addition, the actress who was playing a role of lady-in-waiting dressed clothes alike Hanbok in same context as The Sleuth of the Ming Dynasty at the other Chinese drama I’ve Fallen For You(소주차만행) was cited in Korea as an example of cultural appropriation. As these examples shows, Korean traditional clothes are appearing in Chinese media as if they were Chinese traditional clothes.
Traditional clothes specialty professor Kim So-hyeon, Department of Fashion Design in Baewha Women’s University, commented in the interview with Joong-ang Ilbo that the Manggeon which recently appeared in a Chinese drama such as The Sleuth of the Ming Dynasty is similar to the Joseon Dynasty period style. In addition, Professor Kim said, “Korean Manggeon style is a wrap on the forehead in comparison with Chinese Manggeon which is the shape that has holes.”
Hanfu Movement and Hanbok Controversy
On the other hand, the issue that the Chinese statement is related to the Hanfu movement is coming to the fore. The problem is that some Chinese are arguing that the Hanfu is the origin of Hanbok. According to this logic, they insist Hanbok is a part of Chinese culture because it is same with Hanfu. Furthermore, since most of the Chinese today stem from the Han ethnicity, it can be said that the Han Chinese became modern-day Chinese society. Consequently, there has been a movement to revive the Hanfu, the traditional costume of Han ethnic group.
Background of Hanfu Movement
Behind the revival of Hanfy is the movement to find the indentity of the Han ethinic people based on national strength. Hanfu was lost in 1645 by the Qing Dynasty founded by the Manchus. As time went by, the Han ethnic people hace made efforts to revive Hanfu by holding a Hanfu Cultural Festival. In an interview with the Joong-Ang Ilbo, professor Song Mi-kyung at Seoul Women's University, said, "A performance dressed as Hanfu was presented at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which served as an opportunity to popularize Hanfu."
Nevertheless, plenty of historical records show that rather Hanbok was influenced by Hanfu. Sukwonzapgi (菽園雜記, 숙원잡기, the name of the book) is a typical example of such a record that was written in the early part of Ming dynasty. In the Sukwonzapgi, it was said that the Hanfu came from Korea (the Goryeo Dynasty at the time) and was so popular that many people wore it. Later even many dignitaries wore it too. Although such records exist, Hanbok is not even the prototype of the Hanfu.
Question About Whether China's Movement is Intentional
The Catholic University Forum (CUF) held a survey try to find out the Catholic University of Korea (CUK) students’ intention about the controversy over Hanbok. According to a survey, 16 of all 21 respondents said they felt China intended to make the hanbok their own traditional costumes. In addition, 58.3 percent (7 of 12 respond) answered that about the Hanbok controversy was serious. An anonymous respondent also said, "I thought China might be trying to intercept the Korean Wave because it is gaining popularity."
Meanwhile, the experts are divided over whether China's exposure of Korean traditional clothing to the media is a move to make Korea's unique culture theirs. In an interview with the Joong-Ang Ilbo, an expert who spoke on the condition of anonymity asserted that, "Korea and China have been embracing cultures from each other for a long time, there would be too many problems that could appear if we go into the details."
“Although Korea and China have influenced each other in fashion from the past, there would be a concern that these two nations’ relationship could be hostile. Because the thing such as the incorrect historical research on clothes is applied to historical drama and character who dressed Hanbok behind to main character,” Professor Kim So-hyeon mentioned on the over same interview. She also commented that it makes people unconsciously watch the drama and feel there is no problem even it is historically not right.
In an anonymous survey conducted by CUF, one of the CUK students responded about the controversy of Hanbok that Korean should protect their own culture themselves and need more effort to protect Hanbok. Meantime, since Korea and China have been historically interacting with each other for a long time, it is hard to determine whether who had started to be an exemplary model towards the other. Therefore, the most important thing is respecting each other’s culture and not to misrepresent it, also endeavoring to preserve each other’s respective culture is a respectful position to take.