China accused of ‘appropriation’ over Korean dress in Olympic opening ceremony
A leading South Korean presidential candidate has accused China of “cultural appropriation” after a performer wearing a traditional Korean dress appeared at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.
Friday’s grand opening of the Games featured a young woman carrying a Chinese flag in a pink and white Korean traditional dress — known as hanbok — as part of a group of other performers representing the country’s ethnic groups.
China is home to one of the world’s largest populations of overseas Koreans and the countries share deep cultural links.
But the appearance of the hanbok sparked anger online in South Korea, with many accusing Beijing of “stealing” the country’s culture.
Lee Jae-myung, the ruling Democratic Party’s candidate in upcoming presidential elections, condemned China’s “cultural appropriation.”
The office of his main opponent, conservative Yoon Suk-yeol, also accused Beijing of being “disrespectful” in its decision to feature the dress, urging Seoul to seek an apology from China.
South Korean culture minister Hwang Hee — who attended Friday’s opening ceremony — said Seoul has no plans to officially complain to Beijing over the costume.
But, he added, the issue “may create misunderstandings” between the two countries.
Seo Kyoung-duk, a professor at Sungshin Women’s University and activist, said the incident would serve as an opportunity to “introduce our traditional culture to people around the world.”
“Our history and culture must be protected by ourselves,” he wrote on Facebook.
South Korea and China have often clashed over issues of cultural heritage.
Beijing’s efforts to label kimchi — a staple of Korean cuisine made of cabbage — as a variant of Chinese pickled vegetables known as pao cai sparked fury in the South, where the side-dish is a much-loved accompaniment to almost every meal.
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