Korean Art

James Turnbull's picture

Korean Retro!

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Despite everything I’ve said about Girls’ Generation (소녀시대) over the years, I’m really liking this retro look for their new mini-album Hoot (훗), to be released later this week. Heck, along with Eccentric Yoruba, I’m even liking the title track too, whereas I needed to hear DJ Areia’s trance remix before I could even begin to listen to Oh! (오!).

But I’ve actually liked Korean retro itself for a long time now. And one thing the posters reminded me of was a brief article on precisely that from the November 2008 edition of Design Journal (디자인저널), which I realized it would be a pity not to pass on to readers while the subject was (hopefully) coming back in vogue. And also to inform them about the magazine itself of course, which – although its English could be much improved as you’ll soon see – is very rare in that it has both English and Korean versions of each article, helping to open up an entire creative side of Korean life that would normally be relatively inaccessible to expats.

James Turnbull's picture

Pink Imperialism?


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Koreans have curious attitudes to pink clothing.

On the one hand, they are by no means considered feminine on adults, nor have they ever been historically. Indeed, far from rejecting the color, these days many young men positively embrace pink as a loud and easily visible sign of rebellion against the gruff, dull rural roots of their parents (most Koreans lived in villages until as recently as the late-1970s). As The Joshing Gnome puts it:

Many young guys who grew up in this world find that it’s just not them.  What recourse do they have but to declare loudly and pinkly to the world ‘I am not what my parents are.’  They’re showing people they’re young, they’re modern, they’re not dissolute drunken bums (and how would one know if not for their outfits?) and they’re urbane.  If my two choices of apparel are white pants, a pink shirt, and ‘wax’ in my hair or slippers, track pants, a motorcycle and a case of the soju rosies, then I have to say I would be right there with these preening young men foppin’ it up.

And I’ve made a similar argument for their wearing of “couple clothes”, such a visible sign of affection possibly being a stark rejection of the model of their own parents’ often arranged marriages. But I’m not so out of touch though, that I don’t realize that it could just as easily be because men will simply do anything to get laid, and if their partners want them both to look “cute” by wearing exactly the same pastels and pinks as them, then why not? After all, looking cute is a strong cultural prerogative in Korea, much like the equivalent in many Western countries is to be ‘Xtreme’ and too cool for school.

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