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The Emperor’s New Soccer Uniforms

New Korean Soccer uniforms The following is from an article published in "The Korea Herald"

In a departure from previous years, Nike, in creating national team uniforms for eight countries, incorporated each country's culture and heritage. Since the 1980s, red has been the predominant color in the Korean national team and the latest jersey reflects that tradition. At first glance, the close v-neck of the jersey is the most striking reference to Korean heritage, reflecting the collar of a hanbok, or traditional Korean costume.

Other Korean elements are less than obvious. Unless Walker pointed out the blue diagonal lines on the mesh panels on the sides, panels that are created for ventilation, as representing stripes of the tiger, an ordinary soccer fan would never have known. Why the tiger stripes? "Through our interviews and research we found that the tiger, in Korean culture, is associated with bravery and power," said Thomas Walker, the 28-year-old English designer based in Amsterdam who created the uniform.

The shorts are slightly longer and looser. White shorts make the players look bigger and faster on the field, according to Walker. "This is an advantage when playing against larger European players," Walker explained. The rather chunky blocks of number letterings on the jersey, Walker, said were inspired by the straight lines of Hangeul script. Perhaps his researchers chose to focus on particularly modern stylized typography.

For the last Korean element of the design, one really had to look. In fact, one had to pull out the shirt from the shorts to find the writing "tuhon" in Korean. Tuhon roughly means fighting spirit. "This reflects the will to fight to the very end," Walker said.

Veteran hanbok designer Lee Young-hee, who also does modern ready-to-wear collections inspired by hanbok, was less than impressed with the result. Not one to mince her words, when asked to comment on the traditional Korean elements, Lee said on stage, "What Westerners see as Korean and what Koreans see as Korean are very different."

Calling for the need to cooperate with designers who really know hanbok, Lee said, "I am sure there will be a much better uniform four years later. It is too bad I didn't know about this earlier."

Soccer fans can see their favorite players on the field in the new uniform on March 1 at Sangam World Cup Stadium when Korea plays in a match marking the D-100 to World Cup Soccer in June.


Fascinating line: "What Westerners see as Korean and what Koreans see as Korean are very different."

What about Koreans born in the west? Isn't this just accelerated postmodern culture? What about faith? Perhaps what Westerners see as Korean faith is not really what Koreans see as faith? For instance, I know so many non-Koreans have commented to me about the Korean approach or style of prayer and its power, but maybe it's not what Korean views as powerful about their own faith.

Regardless, I'm glad we don't have to wear uniforms.

About David Park

Christian 2nd-generation Korean American; Atlanta Georgia; more details to come.

One response to “The Emperor’s New Soccer Uniforms

  1. ur blog is very interesting.. keep posting often.. please visit my new soccer blog! thnks

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