Koreans are outraged by the presence of hanbok at the Beijing Olympics
February 7, 2022
SEOUL – The hanbok has become the latest focal point in the decades-long feud between Korea and China over many aspects of Korean culture that China claims as its own.
A new controversy erupted when an artist dressed in a hanbok, or traditional Korean costume, was seen Friday evening taking part in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
As people representing 56 ethnic groups in China carried the Chinese national flag into Beijing’s National Stadium, a woman dressed in a pale pink and white hanbok marched with other performers at Friday’s event.
The appearance of a performer wearing a hanbok as an ethnic minority has sparked anger in Korea, with many criticizing the Chinese government for trying to “steal” Korean culture and accusing it of cultural appropriation.
National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug, who was in China to attend the opening ceremony, held an online meeting with Korean correspondents Sunday in Beijing regarding the hanbok controversy at the opening ceremony. opening.
“I expressed my position on the controversy and concerns in Korea (related to hanbok),” Park said. On Saturday, Park had a meeting and dinner with Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) of China.
“The President replied that he would convey (Korea’s position) to the relevant authorities and that Korea’s concerns would be taken into consideration. No one doubts that hanbok is the representative culture of Korea. We should be proud of our culture,” added the speaker.
Leading South Korean presidential candidates have been quick to accuse China of laying claim to Korean culture.
“Don’t covet (other people’s) culture. Oppose cultural appropriation,” Lee Jae-myung, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea candidate, wrote on his Facebook page hours after the event.
Park Chan-dae, a lawmaker and spokesperson for Lee’s campaign team, added that he deeply regrets the hanbok appearing among Chinese ethnic minority costumes on a global stage like the Olympics. He said on Saturday that China’s repeated claims to Korean culture have become an “extremely important issue”.
“The kingdoms of Goguryeo and Balhae are our proud and glorious history,” Yoon Suk-yeol, presidential candidate for the main opposition People’s Power Party, told reporters during a visit to India. Jeju Island on Saturday. Meanwhile, his campaign spokesman Lee Yang-soo said the Beijing Winter Olympics opening ceremony was “tarnished”.
Ahn Cheol-soo, presidential candidate for the minor opposition People’s Party, also wrote a post on Facebook, saying that “hanbok is Korean culture. … I tell the Chinese authorities that the dress was hanbok, not hanfu.
Meanwhile, Yoon’s campaign spokesperson slammed Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Hwang Hee, who leads the government delegation in Beijing, for refusing to formally protest to organizers against the woman dressed in hanbok.
Hwang attended the opening ceremony wearing a hanbok.
Although the Korean government has not issued an official statement, Hwang told Korean media that the opening ceremony may cause “misunderstanding” in bilateral relations, but he has no intention of protesting. against the incident.
A Seoul Foreign Ministry official, however, said on Sunday that the hanbok indisputably symbolizes Korean culture and that the government will continue to impress upon China that cultural traditions should be respected.
“It is indisputable that hanbok is one of the representative aspects of our culture that has been recognized by the whole world,” said the official, who wished to remain anonymous. The official pledged to maintain constructive communication with China and actively promote Korean traditional dress to the world.
Seo Kyoung-duk, a professor at Sungshin Women’s University and an activist promoting South Korean culture, said China has already made too many claims on the hanbok. At the same time, the expert urged South Korea to do a better job of raising awareness around the world that hanbok is a traditional Korean costume.
Online communities and social media have also seen many expressions of outrage over the portrayal of hanbok as a Chinese culture.
“Hanbok is the traditional Korean dress” and “Don’t steal our tradition” were some of the most common messages.