Hanbok vs. Jeogori vs.
Cheoson-ot: A Traditional
Korean Clothing History

What is the difference between a hanbok and a jeogori? And where does cheoson-ot come into play?

What is the difference between Hanbok / Jeogori / Cheoson-ot? 
Traditional Korean Clothing Male
Traditional Korean Clothing Female
The Hanbok: Traditional Korean Clothing
Symbolism of the Hanbok
History of the Hanbok

Traditional Korean clothing has been around for centuries. It’s an important part of traditional Korean culture, and the hanbok is making a come-back.

Traditionally, traditional Korean clothing was worn daily and was designed to facilitate ease of movement. Up until recently, wearing a Hanbok may have been seen as something out-dated and only worn at special occasions. But recently, traditional Korean clothing and wearing a hanbok is making a come-back.

In 1996, South Korea even introduced a “Hanbok Day” encouraging South Koreans to wear a Hanbok. 

So let’s start at the basics. 

What makes up traditional Korean clothing? Is there traditional Korean clothing for men or just traditional Korean clothing for women? And what IS the difference between a Hanbok, a Jeogori and a Cheoson-ot? 


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How to wear a Hanbok/
How to wear traditional Korean clothing

What is the difference between Hanbok / Jeogori / Cheoson-ot? 

Let’s first establish the difference a Hanbok, Jeogori and Cheoson-ot so we know exactly what we’re talking about when it comes to traditional Korean clothing. 

Hanbok (한복)

Hanbok is simply the name to describe traditional Korean clothing in its entity. The hanbok is then made up of various components that all come together to make the “hanbok”. Whilst the name literally means “Korean clothing”, it usually refers specifically to the traditional Korean clothing work in the Chosen dynasty period. The hanbok refers to both traditional Korean clothing for men and traditional Korean clothing for women. 

Cheoson-ot (초손옷)

The Cheoson-ot is practically the same thing as a Hanbok. Hanbok is the word used in South Korea to describe the traditional Korean clothing for women, and Cheoson-ot is the North Korean word for describing traditional Korean clothing. In North Korea, they use “Cheoson” to describe the country, and don’t use “han” and “buk” which describe “south” and “north” Korea respectively. 

Jeogori (저고리)

The jeogori is a part of the hanbok. 

The hanbok is made up of different components.

For women, the jeogori is often one of the most striking and important components, as it is the upper garment of the large  handbook dress. It is often the most elaborate or colourfully decorated. It is worn with chima (the under dress) or skirts. It covers the arms and upper part of the body. 

For men, the jeogori is less elaborate and is worn with a baji or pants. 

A jeogori traditionally is made from silk or hemp. Today, other materials are used such as lace. 

Traditional Korean Clothing Male

A man's hanbok consists of the jeorgori and loose trousers known as baji. Other items such as the jokki may be added for convenience or style. 

Traditional Korean Clothing Female

The traditional women’s hanbok consists of the chima and jeogori. Like the traditional korean clothing for men, other items can also be added for both convenience and style. 


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The Hanbok: Traditional Korean Clothing

Let’s take a look at the important components of traditional Korean clothing that make up the Hanbok. 

Chima: Skirt

The Chima component of the hanbok refers to the skirt part of the hanbok. 

Baji: Trousers

The baji refers to the bottom half of the traditional Korean clothing for men. The literal meaning is “trousers”, said in a polite way. These are loose trousers, deliberately roomy and convenient for sitting on the floor - a traditional way to sit for Koreans. 

Nowadays, ‘baji’ refers to trousers in general.

Po: Overcoat

Po refers to an outer robe or overcoat. 

Jokki: Vest

This is worn over the jeogori part of the hanbok. It is for both practical and stylish reasons. 

Magoja: Jacket

This is an outer jacket worn over the jeogori and Hanbok. It is good for warmth and also style. 

Both the Jokki and Magoja were introduced later on and became traditional Korean clothing after western culture started to have an influence on traditional Korean attire. 

The Symbolism of the Hanbok

Hanbok colours 

Traditionally, the colours of the hanbok symbolise the following; 

White = Metal
Red = Fire
Blue = Wood
Black = Water
Yellow = Earth

Bright colours were reserved for children, white for married women, and reds and yellows to signify a single lady. Colours also could suggest class. Whites and greys were reserved for commoners, whilst more vibrant colours were worn by the upper classes.

You can also personalise your hanbok with some embroideries or patterns. Traditionally, these patterns would hold meaning. Peonies on a wedding dress symbolised honour and wealth, a lotus symbolised hope, and bats and pomegranates represented wanting to have children. Dragons, tigers, and phoenixes were reserved for the upper class, royalty and high-ranking officials only. 

Today, hanboks are usually bright vibrant colours, with Korean people not paying too much attention to the connotation of the colours and patterns. 

History of the Hanbok

Traditional Korean clothing has been worn for centuries. The history of the hanbok dates back from the Goguryeo Dynasty. This was the dynasty of the Three Ancient Kingdoms of Korea, stretching from 37 BCE to 668 CE. 

Hanboks have, unsurprisingly, changed a lot during this time. The hanboks worn today look very different from what traditional Korean clothing looked like at this time. 

The hanbok was influenced by various cultures over the years, as well as different fashion trends. 

During these early days, the hanbok for both men and women was a short baji (trousers) and a short jacket. 

Cultures such as the Mongolian empire had an influence in how the hanbok changed and developed over the years. By the end of the Three Ancient Kingdoms of Korea era, women had started wearing longer skirts and shorter jackets that pulled in at the waist more. Men also shortened their jackets and started to wear looser trousers. 

The hanbok then had different influences including from the west and during Japanese colonial rule. It slowly started to fall out of fashion in the 20th century - but after WW2 traditional Korean clothing started to make a comeback.

Today, in both South Korea and North Korea, the hanbok is worn on special occasions or celebrations. 

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North Korea 


Zoe Stephens

Zoe is the marketing manager and a tour leader at Koryo Tours.

Her love of meeting new people and exploring new cultures has led her to study several languages including German, Japanese, and Chinese. Having lived in several different countries across 4 continents, she often writes about languages and culture in her blogs and is very active on social media. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she was 'stuck' in Tonga for 1.5 years after a weekend away. Ask her for some stories! 

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