Yeseul’s Essay on How Korean Traditional Culture is Adapting to Modernity

I argue that ancient culture should change their form simply or conveniently to reconcile with a modern world in our life. These days, many modern people think ancient culture is outdated and very complex to enjoy. Because of those reasons, many ancient cultures are disappearing. Modern society regards convenience and simplicity as important things, because modern society is more complex than the past and requires so many things in a short time. So I think we should change ancient culture more simply and convenient for enjoying. I found good examples in the changes of Hanbok (Korean traditional clothes), how to make Hanji (Korean traditional paper), the changes of Hanok (Korean traditional house) and the application of Korean traditional wedding to new Korean style wedding way.

First, I made a video about how to put on women’s Hanbok, so I could find some good changes in wearing Hanbok. The hardest part of putting on Hanbok for people who don’t wear Hanbok often is tying Goreum. So modern people changed it to be convenient. They get rid of Goreum, and use a frog closure or snap fasteners. And Korean traditional socks, Boseon, have ‘Sunuk’. Traditionally, people had to look at Sunuk to see which was the left and right Boseon. However these days, people make Bosoen which doesn’t have left or right, so people can wear it more easily. Also, the skirt of Hanbok was changed. The length of the skirt is shorter than before, because traditional skirt was too long for people to walk quickly in everyday life. Besides, people reduced the width of sleeves of Hanbok for convenience. Putting on traditional Hanbok took more time than wearing western style clothes. So modern people changed the forms to wear it easily and conveniently. I also found an internet shopping mall to sell modernized Hanbok. I think this is the solution about how to reconcile ancient culture with a modern world. If we stick to original and traditional Hanbok, modern people cannot feel interest in Hanbok and they do not pay attention to Hanbok. As a result Hanbok can be forgotten by a modern world. Also, the internet shopping mall makes younger people access easily to buy Hanbok. So I think we should accept modernization and adjust our ancient things to a modern world. I think this is the solution to prevent ancient things’ disappearing and reconcile with a modern world.

Second, I could find the effort to make ancient culture more simple and convenient in how to make Hanji. Traditionally, to drain Hanji, ancient people used stone or heavy wood. However in these days, people use some machine to drain Hanji. If people use machine, they can drain quicker and conveniently. And modern people also use machine to dry Hanji, while ancient people used this methods: Sunlight drying, Wooden board drying, and Floor heating drying. Sunlight drying is to dry Hanji under the sun. Wooden board drying is using wood when they dry Hanji. Floor heating drying is to dry Hanji on warm floor. These methods require too much time, and the maker should care more to dry Hanji. So modern people started to use machine to dry Hanji much faster and easier than using traditional methods. I think this change is very important, because ancient culture should think about its productivity and cost. These days, a lot of modern people don’t find Hanji for their everyday life’ paper. In short, there is a scant demand, so now paper makers have hard times to earn money. However through they changed the process of making Hanji, they can produce more Hanji in a short time and less cost. These days, we live in capitalism society, so we should care about the cost. I think if enjoying ancient culture requires too much money and time, modern people don’t want to cost their money and time. So I think we should find strategies like Hanji production.

Third, Hanok is also changed its form for convenience and simplicity. Traditionally, Hanok heated itself with Ondol which is the traditional heating system. However I think Ondol system is not proper in a modern world. Ondol system is complex to establish and people couldn’t control the temperature freely. Also, people needed firewood to heat house, if they use Ondol system in Hanok. So people accepted new boiler system in Hanok. Besides, Hanok accepted western style toilet. Traditionally, the toilet of Hanok was located in outside of house. However it was so uncomfortable, so people changed it. And traditional door of Hanbok was made with wood and paper, but it was hard to retain. So Hanok use glasses for its doors, but it maintain the form of traditional doors.

Fourth, I want to talk about the wedding style to explain how to reconcile ancient culture and a modern world. I watched Haeon’s video and I found there are some limits to allow strictly the rules of traditional wedding. For example, a groom can’t appear with riding a horse in the city. And the rules of the traditional wedding can be complex for new generation in these days. So modern people simplify the rules and add it in modern wedding style. It is called ‘Pyebaek’.

Consequently, the ancient culture which I mention in this paper: Hanbok, Hanji, Hanok and the traditional wedding maintain the essence of them, but they changed their uncomfortable things to reconcile with a modern world in our lives. And also the ancient culture accept modern thing like internet or machine to reconcile with a modern world. So I think these changes are good and necessary, because these changes make ancient things remain around us and reconcile with a new world, not becoming extinct, for reason which is uncomfortable and complex. However also, I am little worried about that people more concentrate the convenience and simplicity, so it can cause losing of our own ancient culture. Therefore I think we should be careful to change our ancient things to be more convenient and simple. In short, we should change properly to harmony modern life, but also we should be careful not to lose our own things.


The past, present and future of Hanji

My name is Yi Yeseul, and I am a first year student majoring in Korean Studies. Please watch the video I prepared on the topic of Hanji.

Related Videos List:

Hanji is dyed with 5 colors. These are Obangsaek. To learn more about Obangsaek.

[Sources List]




Kendall, Laurel. “Intangible Traces and Material Things: The Performance of Heritage Handicraft” Acta Koreana 17. 2014.

To learn about Hanji, I visited “Hanji Theme Park”. Hanji Theme Park is located in Wonju, Gangwondo, Korea. You can learn about the history of Hanji, how to make Hanji and you can also see so many crafts made with Hanji. In addition, you can learn and experience modern art of Hanji. You can get more information with this link.

Music: “시간여행 (Time travel)” – 초콜릿 (chocolate)