Charm of Seoul – What we wear, where we live

18/Oct/2023 - 18/Feb/2024

The Museum of Ethnography in Budapest opens its first guest exhibition. An exhibition from the Seoul Museum of History will explore the history and modern daily life of the South Korean capital looking at the changes in dress and housing culture, among other things. The exhibition "Charm of Seoul  - What we wear, where we live" will be open from 18th of October, 2023 to 18th of February 2024. 

How to capture the style of a big city and its historical roots? What makes Seoul unique? In this temporary exhibition in Budapest, the Seoul Museum of History attempts to answer these questions through objects of traditional Korean dress and housing from the museum's collection. The choice has proved fruitful not only because of the spectacular artefacts, but also because of the two themes that provide an understanding of Korean everyday life and celebrations, and the system of values and symbols that pervade the whole society, represented by Korean Confucianism. The backbone of this are the ancestors, the past, the environment and the harmonious relationship among them. The exhibition at the Museum of Ethnography shows how this can be traced in the subtle patterns and variations of clothing and interiors. In each garment, the status, education, rank, position, age and gender of the wearer are present, therefore not only the tradition of Seoul is visible, but also the fate and everyday life of the people who lived there. 

Accordingly, the exhibition will feature a wide range of hanboks. Of course, the exhibition will not only feature pieces from the Korean traditional and cultural costume ensemble, which was the typical Korean costume before the modern expansion of Western-style dress, but also a spectacular selection of modern designer pieces inspired by it. The details are unravelled through classic and modern outfits: when and who wore white, black, red, blue and green in Korea, why Seoul is known as the city of hats, what are the most important accessories? 

A similarly exciting venue for the exhibition is the hanok, a building made in traditional Korean technique and style, created in harmony with nature and the environment. Because of its advantages, it is still used in Korea today, although modern buildings have replaced houses as the most common form of housing. In addition to the structural interest of the buildings, the exhibition also highlights the difference between male and female spaces.

Seoul, with its long history, is the capital and largest city of Korea, now the capital of South Korea. For more than a millennium it was the capital, and for more than half of that time the seat of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). During these five hundred years or so, Seoul was the centre where wealth from all over the country was gathered and through which foreign civilisations and cultures could be explored. The city was a leader in philosophy, science and the arts, and was also at the forefront of everyday dress, dining and housing. The arrival of Western culture in the 19th century brought about major changes, and in the 20th century Seoul suffered severe war damage. Subsequent reconstruction completely transformed the city.

Yet every corner of Seoul is dotted with historical monuments and with evidence of its long-standing status as a capital city. The forest of skyscrapers in the city centre coexists with royal palaces and traditional hanok houses, and on the 21st century streets you'll often see people dressed in traditional costume alongside passers-by with a Korean contemporary following. The Seoul Museum of History is located in the grounds of Gyeonghuigung, a royal palace of the Joseon Dynasty. One of the city's most important museums, it offers visitors from home and abroad a chance to experience Seoul's history and culture through its rich art collection and diverse exhibitions. The exhibition, "Charm of Seoul - What we wear, where we live" due to the collaboration between the two institutions, brings this world to life in Budapest.

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