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Jongno festival is bringing hanbok back : Event will showcase history, fashion and markets all weekend

Sept 23,2017
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A couple in their own hanbok at last year’s Jongno Hanbok Festival, held at Gwanghwamun in central Seoul. [JONGNO DISTRICT OFFICE]
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Models in the traditional hanbok worn by the royal family, namely the queen and king, at last year’s festival. [JONGNO DISTRICT OFFICE]
Despite its beauty and history, not many people enjoy traditional hanbok these days. To give the public a chance to do so, Jongno District Office is presenting the Jongno Hanbok Festival 2017 until Sunday at the Gwanghwamun Square and Sangchonjae, both in central Seoul.

One reason few people wear hanbok is that the average ladies’ hanbok costs at least 300,000 won ($264).

Also, in Korea it’s considered unusual to wear one outside weddings, the first birthday of a child or at funerals.

Now in its second year, the Hanbok Festival is an event for everyone interested in the traditional dress. The three-day festivity from Friday to Sunday offers diverse experiences for visitors, whether academic or cultural. On Friday evening, an orchestra conducted by maestro Gum Nanse performed their music in hanbok for the first time.

For those who own their own hanbok, Gwanghwamun is just the place to take a stroll. From Saturday to Sunday the city will host a “Hanbok Flaunting Contest,” where people can come in their finest hanbok to see whose is best.

The contest is open to the public, with a separate section for foreigners.

For those who don’t own hanbok, the festival has organized 10 booths with over 2,000 sets available for rent at the scene. The staff will assist visitors in how to wear hanbok correctly. A colorful photo zone with bright lights is also ready nearby.

The festivity offers other traditional experiences, as well. From 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the “Hanbok Playground” corner of the festival, visitors can experience a variety of traditional fairs such as crafted glass pieces, traditional ribbons, soaps made in the shape of hanbok, traditional fabric dyes, traditional hunting culture, hanji [traditional Korean paper] accessories and dolls, fabric painting, makeup to go with hanbok, traditional etiquette and how to make traditional accessories.

Gwanghwamun Square will also host a traditional marketplace and food market offering delicious cuisine.

In nearby Sangchonjae, a hanok [traditional Korean housing] experience center on the west of Gwanghwamun and Gyeongbok Palace, will hold events for those looking for a more detailed approach to Korea’s historical dress.

In addition to the “Hanbok Forum” held on Friday for experts in the field, who came together to discuss ways to bring the garment back to people’s ordinary lives, on Saturday there will be a seminar held by the Korea Intangible Heritage Promotion Center on the theme of “Class of Jongno, Hanbok of Today.”

Also on scene at Sangchonjae is an exhibition by the Korea Traditional Intangible Cultural Properties foundation, showing the history of women’s hanbok from the 15th century Joseon era to the modern day.

Later in the evening, until 8 p.m. on Saturday and 7 p.m. on Sunday, visitors can join in the massive ganggang sullae, or traditional circle dance, by women clad in beautiful hanbok.

Ganggang sullae used to be danced by women in Chuseok, praying for good luck and a rich autumn harvest. Lead by some 100 professional dancers and dance students, the massive circle dance will allow anyone there to step in, hold hands and add another link to the circle.

“Jongno [District office] is working to lead the expansion of traditional culture such as hanbok, but also hanok, Hangul, hansik [Korean food] and hanji, by trying to bring hanbok into people’s everyday lives,” said the organizers.

They added, “Also, we hope to spread the beauty of hanbok across Korea, and to the world, thereby becoming one of the leading Hallyu [Korean wave] tourist attractions in Korea.”

To attract visitors to the site, organizers will provide prizes to those who arrive early to the festival, such as hanbok accessories.

The festival is also available live on Jongno TV’s official website, as well as the Jongno District channel on YouTube.

People wearing hanbok will gain free entrance to Gyeongbok Palace.

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]

Gwanghwamun Square is near Gwanghwamun station, line No. 5. Sangchonjae is a 10-minute walk from Gyeongbok Palace station, line No. 3, exit 2. For more information, visit www.jfac.or.kr or call (02) 6203-1502. Live broadcast is available on tv.jongno.go.kr.