In search of the ideal hanbokBy the time Chuseok, the Korean Thanksgiving, approaches ― it’s on Sept. 28 this year ― most Koreans probably start to consider getting a new hanbok.
Hanbok, the traditional Korean clothing, is basically a two-piece garment. It consists of a shirt, or chogori, and a pair of pants for men or a skirt for women (called paji and chima, respectively). There are various upper- and undergarments, as well as adornments that vary according to gender and age.
Since it is a traditional costume, once you buy a hanbok, it hardly goes out of fashion. Still, there are some minor changes in style from year to year.
To make sure you’re up on this year’s fashion ― and to give you an idea of how much you should be paying ― we investigated some major hanbok markets, including Kwangjang Market, Freya Town and Dongdaemun General Market, all of which are located around Dongdaemun in Seoul.
This year’s hanbok are notable for their shining cuff embroidery. These cuff designs, which accentuate the chogori, have become more decorative as the available space for them has increased. Decorations vary from flowers to abstract metaphysical designs.
There are also hanbok with embroidery on the shoulder, on the sleeve and even on the entire chogori. Not surprisingly, consumers prefer hand-embroidered garments to machine-made ones.
Classier hanbok are being introduced for adults. In chogori, for making a special impression, a variety of pastel colors have been introduced.
A standard, handwashable hanbok generally costs between 130,000 won and 150,000 won ($110 to $130). Silk hanbok tend to run 300,000 won to 400,000 won. The cost, however, can vary according to your bargaining power.
We went to eight shops to try to negotiate a price for the same type of women’s hanbok ―100-percent silk, with an embroidered skirt and cuff. At one place, we talked the salesperson down from 350,000 won to 230,000 won.
Another shop, at Kwangjang Market, wouldn’t come down at all from the 400,000-won price. But they threw in an underskirt, a traditional handbag and matching shoes.
For children, many ready-made hanbok are available. You can buy children’s hanbok for 20,000 won to 40,000 won at Kwangjang Market. For middle and high school students, the range is 80,000 won to 100,000 won. A child’s “reformed” hanbok, a modernized or Westernized version, can be had for anywhere from 30,000 won to 150,000 won.
In variety and quantity, we found Kwangjang Market to be the best place to go. There was a broad assortment, from ready-made to custom-made, of both traditional and reformed hanbok. And bargaining was much easier there than at other places, since there was much more competition among sellers.
Hanbok shops at Kwangjang Market tend to have very creative, high-quality products. Thus, bargaining might not be easy. The prices go up to around 400,000 won, rather expensive compared to other markets in town.
Other hanbok markets, including Dongdaemun General Market and Freya Town, didn’t have as many shops, and weren’t as crowded with customers, which should work in your favor as a negotiator. Overall, they had good variety, though not as many ready-made suits.
by Yang Sunny