By Josh Smith
SEOUL – The Chinese Embassy in South Korea on Tuesday defended the use of a Korean traditional costume in last week’s Olympic opening ceremony in Beijing, after South Korean politicians and activists criticised what they called “cultural appropriation”.
A woman wearing what appeared to be a Korean hanbok dress was among those representing China’s different ethnic groups during the ceremony.
Some South Koreans have complained about recent Chinese assertions that various aspects of Korean culture are of Chinese origin.
In apparent solidarity with the complaints, the top U.S. diplomat in Seoul donned Korean hanbok clothing while touring a historic palace and shared photos on social media on Tuesday with the hashtag #OriginalHanbokFromKorea.
“What comes to mind when you think of Korea? Kimchi, K-Pop, K-dramas … and of course Hanbok #OriginalHanbokFromKorea,” Chargé d’Affaires Christopher Del Corso tweeted.
The U.S. Embassy did not immediately elaborate on the thinking behind Del Corso’s posts.
A spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Seoul released a statement saying the hanbok belongs to ethnic Koreans everywhere, including in China and on the Korean peninsula.
“It is not only their wish but also their right for representatives of all ethnic groups in China to wear national costumes to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics,” the spokesperson said. “The Korean people in China and the north and south of the Korean Peninsula share the same origin and have a common traditional culture including clothing.”
South Korea Foreign Ministry estimates there are about 2.5 million people of Korean heritage living in China.
The embassy spokesperson said China respected the historical and cultural traditions of South Korea, and hoped that South Korea would also respect the feelings of all ethnic groups in China, including Koreans.