Hanbok: Where to go for traditional Korean attire

Brad Moore, the drummer of Busker Busker, got married last month. The spotlight thrown on him was not only due to the popularity of the band whose songs reached everywhere in the nation during the first half of the year, but the foreign couple’s love of traditional Korean garments. The drummer and his wife Dani Bacon wore Hanbok on their wedding. In a press conference before their marriage, the couple expressed their excitement at getting married in Hanbok, saying ”We love Korea and feel so lucky to wear the country’s traditional outfit as our wedding attire.”

The first step for Korean couples preparing for marriage is to search for Hanbok, along with where to purchase high-quality products at relatively cheaper prices. The most visited place for them is, for sure, Gwangjang Market located in Jongno District.

Hanbok shops in Dongdaemun Market have maintained an unbeatable name value for more than 40 years nowHanbok shops in Dongdaemun Market have maintained an unbeatable name value for more than 40 years now. The above picture was taken in 1999 when a local media outlet introduced the market as 'Fashion Mecca' (photo: Yonhap News).

First established in 1905, Gwangjang Market’s commercial supremacy has been dominated by Hanbok vendors among the numerous selections from the initial stage and still remains Korea’s largest Hanbok-specialized complex these days. For this reason, Gwangjang Market provides couples with more options at an economical price. This might be the major reason behind the popularity of the market for them.

The Hanbok complex is a four-story building, with the first floor selling furnishings such as curtains and duvets, while the second floor specializes in retailing and wholesaling of Hanbok and the third and fourth are occupied by Hanbok experts who stay there doing the needlework all day long. First-time visitors to the complex might get lost, finding themselves in a maze.

The love of the Hanbok crosses boundaries, receiving worldwide attentionThe love of the Hanbok crosses boundaries, receiving worldwide attention.

There are also Dongdaemun and Namdaemun Markets that have Hanbok-themed vendors run by Hanbok masters with 30 to 40 years of experience in making the traditional outfit. These Hanbok vendors are visited and enjoyed by a growing number of foreign tourists these days, due largely to the success of exported Korean dramas such as Daejanggeum.

“The number of foreign customers to the Hanbok shops recently hiked up, accounting for 70%” said H, who owns a store in Doosan Tower Shopping Mall in Dongdaemun Market. H attributed the public interest in Hanbok to its debut in historical dramas, citing what they ask entering the store. “Please show us the Hanbok featured in Daejanggeum.” The shared background of the majority of customers who are coming from China and southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Singapore might support the impact of the hit dramas since those regions are where Korean dramas have enjoyed the most explosive popularity.

Hanbok in these markets come in a broad range of prices. Traditional markets including Dongdaemun and Namdaemun set the price of traditional outfits to start from 40,000 KRW for children and 90,000 KRW for adults. The price can goes way up depending on colors and the quality of cloth.

The majority of items selling in markets are modernized styles of Hanbok for daywear. For that reason, the City of Seoul has arranged an experience program for those who want to try on different styles of garments. Hanbok designed with colorful embroidery, vivid colors, and traditional patterns reminiscent of royal costumes are available.

The group agreed the vivid color of Hanbok is beautifulTaiwanese tourist Eis Shin (left) who visited the Unhyungung Hanbok Experience Center learned how to wear Hanbok properly and took a group photo with her companions. The group agreed the vivid color of Hanbok is beautiful.

The opportunity is offered at the entrance of the country. Incheon International Airport has a wonderful collection of Hanbok, from daily outwear for the common people during the Joseon Dynasty, luxurious outfits for gisaeng (the Korean version of geishas), to the royal costume of the king and queen. This free event delights immigrants who take the time to wear traditional Korean outfits and pose like real kings in the photo zone.

Gwanghwamun, the heart of Seoul, also provides Hanbok experience events for the convenience of tourists. Unhyunggung runs traditional costume experiences on a daily basis except on Mondays, from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Visitors to the palace can learn about how to wear the traditional attire of the Joseon Dynasty and walk through the palace while taking photos of themselves. The programs are in places in the vicinity of Gwanghwamun, such as Gwanghwamun Plaza just across from the Sejong Center, Namsangol Hanok Village, and also the basement of the Korea Tourism Organization near Cheonggyecheon Stream where tourists can enjoy a glorious moment of being king or queen.

The experience program provided in Hanbok Cafe Studios include hair and make-up services that bring new entertainment to youth (photo courtesy of Goguan Studio).

There are also some costly but worthwhile programs around Insadong, such as Hanbok Cafe Studio. Visitors to the studio, mostly youths, receive hair and make-up services while they sip a cup of tea and capture the moments of the Joseon period for their private photos. The creative program brings new experiences to both domestic and foreign people who always hunger for new entertainment. Prices can vary depending on the options and types of services chosen.

 - Unhyeongung -
Transportation: Seoul Metro Line3 Anguk Station Exit 4, or Line 5 Jongno 3ga Exit 5
Contact: 02 766 9090
Website: http://www.unhyeongung.or.kr/index_eng.php
Rental fee: 3,300 KRW

- Tourist Information Center in the Korea Tourism Organization - 
Transportation: Line 1 Jonggak Station Exit 5, Euljiro 1ga Station Exit 2
Website: http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/GK/GK_EN_2_7_2_1.jsp
Contact: 02 729 9497~9, kntotic@knto.or.kr

- Incheon International Airport -
Traditional Korean Cultural Experience Zone (Antler, 3F)

By Lee Seung-ah
Korea.net Staff Writer