Chinese actor Zhang Jianing sparked controversy after wearing traditional Korean attire while promoting tourism in her hometown of Yanbian in Jilin, China.
In promotion of cultural tourism: The Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, located in northeast China, is home to ethnic Koreans with Chinese nationality, also known as Chaoxianzu.
The 34-year-old actress, who was born and raised in Yanbian, wore a hanbok to promote cultural tourism in the area. The hanbok is a traditional Korean dress often worn by Koreans on special occasions. Zhang has spoken publicly about her Korean heritage and has said that she is proud of her hometown’s culture.
Sparking online debate: Zhang’s attire led to a heated online debate on cultural appropriation and the distinction between hanfu (traditional Chinese clothing) and hanbok (traditional Korean attire).
On the online forum site The Qoo, Korean netizens expressed outrage over what they perceived as cultural theft, with some questioning Zhang’s motives and accusing her of disrespecting Korean culture.
“They don’t even know the meaning, they just imitate it half-heartedly,” a commenter wrote in Korean. “Now they want to claim it for themselves?”
“That really looks like a Korean vassal state,” said a user. “Tsk tsk.”
“Yeah, yeah, Yanbian is part of Korea,” another chimed in.
Others poked fun at her look.
“It’s not a hairpin, it’s a large needle,” wrote another. “Hehe, there is no style at all.”
“Is that a Hanbok? What’s up with the ribbons on the clothes? Haha,” one commented.
Response to the backlash:
In response, Chinese netizens rallied in support of the actor on Weibo
. State broadcaster CCTV also issued a statement supporting Zhang Jianing, asserting the historical significance of traditional Chaoxianzu costumes as part of China’s cultural heritage.
Also known as Karlina Zhang, the actor is best known for “Tribes and Empires: Storm of Prophecy” and “Shining for One Thing.” Amid the online reaction, Zhang recently updated her social media profile photo on Weibo to an avatar depicting her wearing the contentious costume.