Chinese Embassy shoots down claims that hanbok was attempt to steal culture
The Chinese Embassy in Korea refuted the allegation that the Chinese government was trying to steal Korean culture by including a woman clad in hanbok, or Korean traditional dress, at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.
“As is known, China is a multi-ethnic country with 56 ethnic groups,” the embassy said in a statement Tuesday. “It is the wish and right of the representatives of China's nationalities to wear national costumes and participate in international sporting events such as the Beijing Winter Olympics.”
The embassy added that Chaoxianzu, which means Joseon people and refers to the ethnic Koreans in China, and the Koreans of North and South Korea “share the same ancestry and common traditions,” including costumes.
“This traditional culture belongs to the Korean Peninsula and also belongs to the Chaoxianzu, so the argument on so-called cultural plunder cannot be established at all [in this context],” it said.
Representatives of the ethnic groups in China, all wearing their own traditional dress, carried the national flag of China at the opening ceremony of the Olympics on Friday. Among them was a woman clad in a light purple hanbok, meant to represent the ethnic Koreans living in China.
Approximately 1.8 million ethnic Koreans (less than 0.2 percent of the total Chinese population) reside in China. They enjoy a degree of autonomy in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Northeast China’s Jilin Province, where the woman who wore the hanbok is reportedly from.
Many Koreans haven taken to online forums to protest China’s inclusion of hanbok as a traditional costume of one of its ethnic groups.
“South Korea is not a vassal state of China,” reads a petition submitted to the Blue House on Monday, signed by more than 15,000 people as of Wednesday. “Yet at the Beijing Olympics, China has introduced hanbok, samulnori [traditional Korean percussion] and other traditions of Korea as that of the Joseonjok [Korean word for the ethnic Koreans in China], who may be descendants of Koreans but are definitely Chinese citizens. If we let such plundering of our culture pass, we will face a day in the future where people around the world may equate Korea with China.”
Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the Korean government is constantly asking the Chinese government to “respect the indigenous culture” of Korea.
“We are not responding to the matter in a lukewarm matter,” said ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam in a press briefing on Tuesday. “Based on mutual respect for their own cultures, the two countries will continue their efforts to promote diverse cultural exchanges and to enhance understanding between the people of Korea and China.”
A Tweet by the American Charge d'Affaires in Korea Christopher Del Corso on hanbok, posted on Tuesday, also went viral among Korean netizens.
"What comes to mind when you think of Korea? Kimchi, K-Pop, K-dramas... and of course Hanbok," he wrote, posting a photo of him wearing hanbok with the hashtag saying, "original hanbok from Korea."
Following the disqualifications of Korean athletes at the short track speed skating event on Monday, coupled with the hanbok scandal at the opening ceremony, Korean netizens have been openly expressing their ire with the country and this Olympics.
The Chinese Embassy in Korea issued a statement again on Wednesday, protesting such expressions.
"Some South Korean media and politicians blamed the Chinese government and the Beijing Olympics as a whole, even fueling anti-Chinese sentiment, aggravating the sentiments of the people of both countries," said the embassy in its statement. "We have no choice but to express our grave concerns and our stern position on this."
When Korea's Hwang Dae-heon won the men's 1,500-meter short track final on Wednesday, the embassy issued another statement.
Hwang, the world record holder, had crossed the finish line first in his heat in the 1,000-meter semifinals on Monday, but was disqualified after a video review. China's skaters took both the gold and silver medals.
"The Chinese people also evaluated Hwang Dae-heon's outstanding skills positively, demonstrating the sincere friendship between the people of China and Korea," the embassy said.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]