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Hanbok-inspired work attire on display

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Hanbok-inspired business attire is part of a project launched by the culture ministry and the Hanbok Advancement Center to promote the traditional costume for daily wear. Courtesy of Korea Craft and Design Foundation
Hanbok-inspired business attire is part of a project launched by the culture ministry and the Hanbok Advancement Center to promote the traditional costume for daily wear. Courtesy of Korea Craft and Design Foundation

By Park Han-sol

What caught the attention of BLACKPINK's global fans when the K-pop girl group unveiled their new hit, "How You Like That," on NBC's "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" last summer was their stage costume: modernized "hanbok" or traditional Korean attire. The members appeared on stage clad in traditional "jeogori" (upper garments) and "chima" (skirts), which are usually worn on special occasions, but with a modern stylistic twist and flashy colors.

But while the modified hanbok worn by K-pop stars on stage flaunt bolder cuts and patterns suitable for eye-catching performances, other versions more appropriate for everyday wear have started to gain popularity.

A series of hanbok-inspired office wear are on display as part of a project launched by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Hanbok Advancement Center to promote the traditional costume as an accessible fashion item. The exhibition displaying the apparel at Culture Station Seoul 284 downtown runs through June 11.

The ministry's hanbok project came to life last year when it introduced modified uniforms to more than a dozen middle and high schools across the country. In March, it designated the last Wednesday of every month as "A Good Day to Wear Hanbok" for its employees.

Now, it will introduce a collection of hanbok modified as casual business attire. A total of 64 outfits of varying styles, from summer shirts to winter padded jackets, are currently showcased at the exhibition. While retaining the traditional clothing's signature collars, sleeves and delicate outlines, the series aims to bring a mix of class and comfort appropriate for the office.

At the trial stage, the outfits will be adopted by state-run cultural and arts institutions that are in regular contact with the Korean public and tourists. The ministry hopes to expand its scope to other industries, including tourism and hospitality. Interested organizations can visit the Culture Station Seoul 284 exhibition or schedule an individual appointment with the Hanbok Advancement Center.

"Work-wear or uniforms are often associated with a standardized, rigid setting. We hope to introduce modernized hanbok into this atmosphere to show that the traditional apparel can bring comfort and beauty," Park Ju-young at the Hanbok Advancement Center's business team told The Korea Times.

She added that the employees at the National Hangeul Museum in Seoul, including the information desk staff, docents and culture guides, will wear the hanbok-inspired uniforms later this year. The Korean Culture Center in the U.K. and Vietnam have also decided to adopt the apparel.

"For the culture centers overseas, even if the staff is not wearing the uniform for in-person service tasks, the fact they are wearing the hanbok-inspired attire outside of Korea will in itself be meaningful."

Hanbok-inspired business attire / Courtesy of KCDF
Hanbok-inspired business attire / Courtesy of KCDF
박한솔 hansolp@koreatimes.co.kr


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