With the continued increase in anti-Asian violence and scapegoats during the pandemic, some Korean Americans have also embraced hanbok as a symbol of cultural pride in the face of xenophobic attacks. At her recent solo show “Late Bloomer” at the Hashimoto Contemporary gallery in Los Angeles, Seonna Hong, 48, showcased two handmade hanboks, “a tribute to my heritage,” she said. Made from recycled clothing, curtains, canvas, jeans, and a vintage Butterick sewing pattern she found on Etsy, “it’s a reflection of who I am, in that I’m a patchwork of different cultures and generational experiences.”
While researching the pioneering Fluxus artist Nam June Paik in Miami, where he died in 2006, Ms. Choi, the art consultant, was touched to come across his latest work, “Ommah” (Mother), which features a traditional overcoat called a durumagic† encases a looped video of three young Korean-American girls playing games while dressed in hanboks.
“It just touched me to know that this was his last work,” said Ms. Choi. “To me, it symbolizes the lineage of that sadness that is present in every Korean because of our very recent, traumatic history that isn’t talked about much, especially in the diaspora, where it’s considered, ‘That was then, that was there.’ ”
What struck her about watching “Pachinko,” she added, is “how close that past really is, and how much change there has been in such a short time: technological, cultural, geopolitical.” It’s also a stark reminder, she said, of what her own grandmothers wore in their youth just two generations ago.
“With the wave of worldwide interest in Korean culture, hanbok may just be a trend for a lot of people, but for me that validation is not necessary for who I am,” said Ms. Choi. “This is just who we are – and it’s beautiful to embrace.”