Acculturation. I had first read this word during an assigned reading of Thomas Cummins for Humanities Core; I later heard it again the next day in a lecture given by Rachel O’Toole. But I did not expect to see it while researching for this blog post that was meant to take a look at the hierarchy that is shown through clothing specific traditional Korean clothing Hanbok. While looking for articles on hierarchy and Hanbok, I stumbled upon “The Process of Westernization: Adoption of Western-Style Dress by Korean Women, 1945-1962”, where the abstract talked about acculturation among Korean women as they transitioned from traditional hanbok to western style clothing. As it reminded me of the Andean people of colonial South America, and their transition between traditional Inca and Andean clothing to more Spanish and European influenced clothing. As the Oxford English Dictionary defines Acculturation as “Adoption of or adaptation to a different culture, esp. that of a colonizing, conquering, or majority group” and the article by Park which uses the Japanese colonization of Korea as the start of acculturation through the introduction of western clothing to Korea.
While I do not know if Korea had as much of an emphasis on clothing and attire as the Inca did, they both used clothing as a way to portray the hierarchy in their society. Hanbok the traditional clothing of the Korean Peninsula In the Joseon Dynasty hierarchy was founded in Confucianism and enforced vigorously. Royalty over nobility over commoners over slaves; Men over Women. Everyone was born into a class, and upward mobility was almost impossible. People were not equal in this society, this was reflected in the clothing worn by each class.
Hanbok now is not worn often or at all for everyday life in South Korea, replaced for more functional western style clothing. However, Hanbok is still worn for special occasions like weddings, funerals, first birthdays and other traditional celebratory events. But there has been a reemergence of Hanbok nowadays as fashion designers try to incorporate traditional Hanbok into more modern and western like clothing.
Traditional things can be updated, as Goethe said, to make a better future with enlarged elements of the past. I like Korean Roots, but they must be adapted to the Korean world of today… – Karl Lagerfeld
A culture is conforming to western culture and standards, while this is mostly due to the practicality of western clothing, it is an effort to revive a part of Korean culture which was declining to adapted to a modern world and western influences.
Of 21 women that lived in America but were born in Korea during the time when Hanbok was still worn daily mainly stated that there was a pressure to conform but also felt like it was liberating as western clothing was exciting and was less limited than Traditional Hanbok. (Park)
But all the while, the decline of Hanbok in favor of western clothing was like one culture residing to be overtaken by another culture, while the culture is not lost it does not have the presence that it used to have. As some of the interviewed women said that “They regarded hanbok as a party dress rather than as Korean clothes.” (Park 46) And Young Koreans of today uses hanbok as an opportunity to take pictures for social media rather than use it to connect with their Korean identity, more like to cosplay. (Han)
Like the Andean people who chose to wear Spanish like clothing, Korean women choose to wear western clothing the Andean people carved their own identity out of a mixture of cultures, Koreans did the same. “The younger group of women is entirely at ease with western dress since they have been wearing it virtually all their lives. They regard it as their own.“ (Park 46)
Han, Hyonjeong K. Couture Korea. 2017.
Park, Sunae, et al. “The Process of Westernization: Adoption of Western-Style Dress by Korean Women, 1945-1962.” Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, vol. 11, no. 3, 1 Mar. 1993, pp. 39-47.