Image: Still from The Handmaiden. Park Chan-Wook. 2016.
London’s V&A is showing Hallyu! The Korean Wave, until 25 June 2023. A comprehensive overview of the currents of Korean culture that have been lapping the world through cinema, drama, music and fandoms, the exhibition explores the influence of the Korean aesthetic on photography, sculpture, fashion, video, and pop culture.
South Korea has rapidly evolved from a country ravaged by war in the late 1950s to a leading cultural powerhouse by the early 2000s, and the exhibition follows this journey through some 200 objects, including a monumental 1986 video sculpture by Nam June Paik, featuring 33 TV monitors.
Image: Peony Dress. Miss Sohee. 2020. From graduate collection The Girl in Full Bloom. Photograph by Daniel Sachon.
Traditional Korean costumes and props are also on display. There are hats from the Joseon era zombie series Kingdom, and the grooming kit from The Handmaiden, but the fourth and final section of the exhibition focusses exclusively on ‘K-fashion’, showcasing over 20 looks by contemporary hanbok and fashion designers from Korea and the Korean diaspora.
Image: Moon Jar Dress in blue. Minju Kim. Seoul, 2021. ©Minju Kim. Photo by Sagmi An, model Leehyumn Kim.
Display highlights include a look specially created for the V&A by acclaimed stylist Suh Younghee; a K-pop hanbok by C-ZANN E; a pink jacket by Danha; and a purple cheollik dress by Tchai Kim, who drew inspiration from traditional Korean garments and patterns.
The K-fashion section also features hanbok-inspired daily wear designed for and by a younger generation, including looks by Ji Won Choi, Darcycom, and a contemporary hanbok overcoat BaekOak Soo designed for South Korean rapper RM, in 2018.
Image: Saekdong by Darcygom. Photo Jihoon Jung. Courtesy of Darcygom.