Korean netizens claim China appropriated South Korean traditions in Beijing Olympics opening ceremony

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  • Many South Korean netizens are expressing their disapproval over China’s alleged appropriation of South Korean traditions during the Olympics opening ceremony.
  • While presenting the Chinese flag, a young woman wore clothing that strongly resembled a Korean “hanbok”.
  • Chinese dancers also performed their version of the "pungmul," a traditional Korean folk dance in a segment captioned to imply that the dance originated in China.

China’s Olympics opening ceremony featured hanboks and traditional Korean dances, prompting accusations from South Korean politicians and netizens that China is claiming South Korean traditions as their own.

During China’s opening introduction, several Chinese citizens and military officials presented the flag while wearing a variety of traditional Chinese garments to highlight the ethnic groups throughout China. Among the presenters was a young woman wearing a pink and white hanbok, sparking outrage among South Koreans.

On Friday morning, ruling party lawmaker Lee So-young posted on Facebook her disapproval of China using South Korean traditions, according to Reuters

Lee stated in a Facebook post: “This is not the first time China has introduced Korean culture as if it were its own… If the anti-China sentiment of the Korean people becomes stronger by leaving this issue as is, it will be a big obstacle when conducting diplomacy with China in the future.”

Another South Korean politician, Lee Jae-myung, a presidential candidate for the ruling Democratic Party, also criticized China for cultural appropriation in a Facebook post, saying they should not be claiming Korean culture as their own.

The opening ceremony also featured a segment in which Chinese dancers performed their rendition of a traditional Korean folk dance called “pungmul.” According to Koreaboo, the performance was captioned on the screen with “From Baishan Jilin (province in China),” implying that the dance had originated in China. 

Pungmul originated from South Korea during the Joseon dynasty as a part of farming culture where it served as the main form of musical expression. Farmers and villagers would come together to perform pungmul as a way of expressing their work and daily lives as farmers. 

During this performance, several women wore traditional clothing while playing traditional hour-glass shaped drums. Many Korean netizens noticed that the drums and clothing were almost identical to “janggus,” a traditional Korean drum, and hanboks, a traditional Korean dress. 

Many netizens responded with harsh criticism and expressed their outrage over what they saw as China’s attempt to claim Korean traditions as their own. According to Koreaboo, one netizen posted that China is “claiming everything as their culture” and using “Choseon traditions,” while another suggested protesting against China’s cultural appropriation. 

China has run into trouble with South Korea in the past regarding their claims that some parts of Korean culture, such as kimchi or taekwondo, originated in China. This had sparked massive criticism from Korean netizens who continue to express their disapproval over China’s cultural appropriation of South Korean traditions. 

Featured Image via NBC Olympics Opening Ceremony Coverage

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