From hanbok to hangeul, BLACKPINK oozes Korean heritage in comeback

July 6, 2020

Returning from a 14-month hiatus, BLACKPINK has shaken up the K-pop scene with its new single “How You Like That” and accompanying music video released in late June.

The music video has set five new Guinness World Record titles, while the single has remained on top of most domestic streaming charts for 11-consecutive days since its release.

And while the four-piece girl group and its global fan community, referred to as Blinks, have one-upped themselves and the industry in terms of the ever-growing K-pop streaming race, BLACKPINK, in doing so, has also given a big shout out to Korean heritage — the traditional clothing of hanbok and the Korean alphabet of hangeul.

Hanbok is characterized and appreciated for its vibrant colors and simple lines and is worn by Koreans on formal and ceremonial occasions. In recent years, hanbok has caught on as a trendy fashion item to wear among the youth and overseas tourists when visiting traditional palaces, usually by renting.

In the “How You Like That” music video, BLACKPINK members are seen sporting modified hanbok in color palettes of dark black and neon pink, as per the name of the group.

This screenshot from BLACKPINK's "How You Like That" music video shows member Jennie dressed in a modified hanbok. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
This screenshot from BLACKPINK's "How You Like That" music video shows the K-pop quartet dressed in modified hanbok. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)
This image from the Instagram account of Park In-kyung, nail artist for BLACKPINK singer Jisoo, features "Hunminjeongeum" text printed on the singer's fingernails. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

This screenshot from BLACKPINK’s “How You Like That” music video shows member Jennie dressed in a modified hanbok. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

The colorful attire worn by BLACKPINK was modified with a modern twist so that the members were comfortable enough to dance in them while also retaining hanbok’s traditional traits.

The quartet also made its global comeback debut wearing modified hanbok outfits on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on U.S. television network NBC.

Reactions towards BLACKPINK’s new fashion direction were positive for the most part.

“Can’t get over BLACKPINK’s hanbok outfits. It’s so beautiful,” wrote one Twitter user in reaction to BLACKPINK’s comeback.

Another person wrote, “I absolutely love those reinvented hanbok outfits BLACKPINK wore for the performance. They’re so pretty.”

“Hanbok outfit is my favorite so far for this comeback music show stages,” another international BLACKPINK fan commented on Twitter.

BLACKPINK’s homage to traditional Korean heritage has also been featured in one of the most unlikely spots: on the fingernail art of singer Jisoo.

Last week, the singer posted a photo on her Instagram account showing her thumbnail covered with indiscernible text. Jisoo’s nail artist Park Eun-kyung later posted a magnified image of Jisoo’s hands on her own Instagram account, explaining that text was part of the “Hunminjeongeum,” an official Joseon-era document describing the principle of hangeul, of its letters and sounds.

BLACKPINK is hardly the first K-pop act to incorporate elements of Korean traditional culture into cutting-edge modern K-pop sound.

K-pop giant BTS also donned stylish hanbok attire in black and yellow color schemes while dancing behind a digital yellow pavilion in its 2018 music video for “Idol.” BTS member Suga’s solo track “Daechwita” and its music video released in late May also heavily adopted elements of traditional Korean music and imagery.

“Just two years ago, when I began my business from my love for hanbok, I could not imagine my work would be reaching overseas,” said hanbok designer Danha, who produced the modified hanbok outfits for BLACKPINK.

Danha added, “I hope hanbok in the future can be worn daily, as opposed to being worn for special occasions such as weddings or traditional holidays. I believe that it can find a solid footing inside the global fashion industry.”