Korean Language Blog

Hanbok Posted by on Sep 15, 2011 in Culture

Hanbok (한복) is the name for a type of traditional Korean clothing. In particular the hanbok for ladies has changed over the decades. Take for example the jeogori (저고리), which is the upper garment of the woman’s hanbok that covers the entire length of the arms and the upper body. In the early part of Korean history, the jeogori used to cover the waist, but over the years many women have preferred to have it tailored above the waist.

One of the reasons why the jeogori became shorter was because in times of war and other crises like food shortages, it was prudent to use less fabric for clothing. As wars ended the fashion for having shorter jeogori continued and women would wear sometimes add more extravagant elements to the hanbok. For example, the Kkeutdong (끝동) refers to the cuff of the sleeves of the hanbok. The kkeutdong was often of a different color than the rest of the hanbok. In the photo, the kkeutdong is the part that is blue.

It used to be that only the king and his relatives could wear hanbok with geumbak (금박) on it. Geumbak is a type of gold leaf design on the hanbok that indicated the person’s high ranking or royal status. Nowadays anyone who can afford to have a hanbok with a geumbak design can wear it. A skilled artisan must apply the geumbak to the hanbok, which is why hanboks with authentic geumbak designs are very expensive.

The goreum (고름) of the hanbok is like the ribbon or coat strings of the hanbok. If you look at the photo you can get an idea of how to tie the goreum of the hanbok. Usually the goreum of the hanbok is made of a solid color, but in the Jeoseon Period women who were prostitutes/dancing girls wore a special goreum that was decorated with flowers to indicate their occupation as prostitutes/dancing girls. However, this rule doesn’t apply to today’s hanbok!

Another way women distinguished themselves from other women was by the git () or the fabric that lined the band of the collar. Women related to royalty would wear a git lined with geumbak and women who weren’t related to royalty but were of high status wore a git of a different color than the jeogori. In the photo, the git is the fabric that has the gold leaf design right next to the white lining of the color. Men’s hanbok has changed very little over the years, but women’s hanbok continues to evolve still to this day!

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