Korean Boys' Clothes: Chronology


Figure 1.--This Korean boy was painted in traditional clothes about 1910. He was reportedly already married, bit looks to still being a teenager.

Korea was annexed by the Japanese in the early 20th century and then administered as a colony. Clothing for boys continued to follow traditional styles. We have very limited information on traditional styles at this time. Korean boys even in the early 20thb century began to wear western style-clothes in urban areas. The Japanese introduced school uniforms, using the same styles as used in Japan. Korea remained a Japanese colony until surrender to the Allies in 1945. Korea was then occupied by the Soviets in the north and the Americans in the south. Until 1945 clothing styles were quite traditional except for some modern styles in the larger cities. There was very little difference between styles worn in the north and south. Since them very significant differences have developed. Clothing in Korea was affected by the poverty of the country, made worse after North Korea invaded South Korea by the destruction occuring during the Korean War (1950-53). The Eureopean styles adopted in Japan have been very influential in Korea. Boys in Korea wore short shorts and also tights as was the case in Japan. Korean boys now wear the latest Euroean and American styles.

Chinese Protectorate (19th Century)

Korea was for centuries a Chinese protecorate exerting various degrees of indepedence over time. We have no information on clothing styles worn in the 19th century, but assume they were the same traditional styles we note in the early 20th century.

Japanese Colony (1909-45)

Japan as a result of the Menji Restoration began building a modern industrial economy and a modern military. As a result, Japan by the end of the 19th was able to challenge Chinse dominance in Asia. Japan seized Formosa (Taiwan) in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and begin to expand influence in Korea. Korea was one of the major issues in the Russo-Japanese War (1894-95). Korea was formally annexed by the Japanese (1919). It was administered as a colony. Clothing for boys continued to follow traditional styles. We do note that traditional clothing was commonly worn in Korea during the first half of the 20th century. Western styles might be worn in the major cities, but traditional styles were almost universally worn in the countryside. These were not folk costumes, but the children's everyday wear. We have very limited information on traditional styles at this time. Korean boys even in the early 20thb century began to wear western style-clothes in urban areas. The Japanese introduced school uniforms, using the same styles as used in Japan.

World War II (1941-45)

Korea remained a Japanese colony until surrender to the Allies in 1945. There was no fighting in Korea. The Japanese heavily industrialized the north which supported the war effort. Plants in Korea were largely outside the range of American bombers. Late in the War there were some American bombing raids. Allied POWs were used as slave laborors in Korean mines. The Japanese used Koreans as slave laborors in military posts throughout the Pacific. The Japanese forced women to serve as Comfort Womwn. American and Soviet forces arrived in Korea after Japan surrendered (August 1945).

War and Post-War Era (1945-50)

Korea was then occupied by the Soviets in the north and the Americans in the south. Until 1945 clothing styles were quite traditional except for some modern styles in the larger cities. There was very little difference between styles worn in the north and south.

Korean War (1950-53)

The North Koreans Army crossed the 38th parallel on June 25, 1950 to forcibly unify Korea. The Soviets had provided modernwapons in great quantity to the Noryth Koreans. Embolded by the Communist victory in China during 1948-49, Kim-il-Jong obtained Stalin's approval for the attack. President Truman immediately ordered war material be provided the Soyj Koreans and then air support for the South Korean Army. Seoul fell within days. Truman went to the United Nations which, because the Soviets were boycotting the Security Council, approved a military opperation to repell the North Korean attack. Truman than ordered American military intervention. The Soviets had helped the North Koreans build a powerful military force. The United states after World War II had significantly scled back its conventional military force. As a result, the North Koreans pushed the South Koreans back to a small perimiter around the southern port of Pusan. Generl MacArthir from Japan organized an amphibious invasion at Inchon which caught the North Koreans between two forces. North Korem resistance collapsed and MacArthur rushed north accross th 38th parallel to completely defeat and occupy North Korea. Tuman was skeptical, but MacArthur assured him that Chinese warnings to intervene were bluff. They were not an America norces approaching the Yalu River were mauled by a massive Chinese attack. For a while it looked like the Chiese would tota;lly defeat the U.N. forces, but the front was finally stabilized north of Seoul. What followed was 2 years of stalemate which became a major political issue.

Post-War Period (1950s)

Korea was a poor country before the Korean War. Clothing in Korea was affected by the poverty of the country, made worse after North Korea invaded South Korea by the destruction occuring during the fighting. Fighting took place up and down the peninsula. And after fighting had been contained around the 38 paraslell, American air raids struck at targets in the north. Most of the images we see during and in the aftermath of the War show children wearing traditional clothing. Very rarely do we see children in western clothing.

South Korea

After the Korean War, very significant differences developed between North and South. The relationship between the two regions changed. The North had been the more industrialized and prosperous region of Korea. Within a very short period of time the North as a result of Communism became the poorer region and the South as a result of free market capitalism one of the phenoneally successful Asian Tigers. This becasame readily apparent by the 1960s as prosperity and consumer buying power began to trahsform the South. The result is breaktakingly displayed in nighttime satellite photography. Se note more boys wearing Western-style clothing in the south after the Korean War. Chinese-styled clothing became common in the north. South Korea after the War staged on the great economic success stories of the 20th centuries. This was achieved by the south which before the War was the poorer essentially agricultural area of Korea. The result that across the most heavily militarized borders in the world is the poorest country in the world next to one of Asia's richest countries. Not only has Korea succeeded economically, but Korea has also developed a solid democratic political structutre. Here President Regan's letter to President ChunDoo Hwan played a key role in avering the Korean military from suppressing the pro-democracy movement (1986?). [Lilley] As South Korea became increasingly prosperous in the 1960s we begin to see more children wearing fashionable Western-styled clothing. Interestingly the fashions were primarily Japanese versions of Western styles. The Eureopean styles adopted in Japan have been very influential in Korea as has South Korea's economic success. Boys in South Korea wore short shorts and also tights as was the case in Japan. South Korean boys now wear the latest Euroean and American styles. Korean children by the 1970s were commonly wearing Western styles. Traditiona styles became more of a dress-up style for special holidays.

North Korea

One of the remaining Communist countries is North Korea. A great deal has been written about Noth Korea's military program, especially its nuclear weapons program. Less is known about the humanitarian nightmare inside the country. Information is tightly controlled by the North Lorean Government. No one has precise statistics, but it is believed that anywhere from 1-3 million people have died in famine that began in the mid-1990s. Although there has been a draught and the country's economic policies have worsened an already dire situation, a mahor cause of the famine appears to be a result of Government policies simiklar to those persued by Stalin in the Ukranian famine. The Goverbment of Kim Jong Il seems determine to use food as a famine for those deemed the least loyal. Notably, relief agencies are not allowed to minitor food distribution in the most severely affected areas. North Koreans are desperate to flee their country. An estimated 0.3 million are in hiding in Chima, terrified that the Chinese will repatriate them forcefully. Another 0.2 million people are in the North Korean Gulag in which an estimated 0.4 million people have perished in the last three decades. Kim Il Sung, the current rulers's father set a goal of elininating class enenmies through three generations.

Sources

Lilly, James with Jeffrery Lilly. China Hands: Nine Decades of Adventure, Espionage, and Diplomacy in Asia (Public Affairs, 2004), 417p.









HBC





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Crerated: October 7, 2003
Last updated: 6:56 AM 12/7/2012