Korean School Uniforms Overview

Jennifer L. Betts
Elementary school students

You'll see Korean school uniforms on kids from elementary to high school. The Korean high school uniforms, as well as middle and elementary unifroms, differ by region, school and class level, and people in the community recognize which school a student attends by the uniform she or he wears. Explore the different uniforms of North and South Korea along with a bit of history.

School Uniform Styles in Korea

School pride is important to Korean students, and the style of each school's uniform has become increasingly trendy. The primary manufacturers of uniforms began implementing fashion-forward looks and mounted highly successful advertising campaigns with Korean teen idols.

South Korean School Uniforms

Called a gyobok in South Korea, high school uniforms and middle school uniforms are the norm. Students typically start wearing a uniform in middle to high school. Each Korean school has summer uniforms for boys and girls, winter uniforms for boys and girls, Physical education (PE) uniforms for boys and girls, and requirements for socks, shoes and belts. Summer uniforms tend to be navy, while winter uniforms tend to be gray, and include a blazer, fleece jacket or sweater. Some schools also require a Safari-styled summer uniform.

Girls

A girl's typical uniform includes a pleated skirt, long dress trousers, a white shirt with sleeves and a collar, a vest, a tie and outerwear for the winter. Socks must be white. Make-up and nail polish are typically restricted.

Boys

A boy's Korean school uniform generally consists of dress trousers, a white shirt with sleeves and a collar, a jacket, a vest, a tie and outerwear for winter. Socks must be white, and belts must be worn with trousers.

South Korean Students

Cost of a South Korean School Uniform

Students are required to wear a uniform to school daily, and the cost can vary by region. However, overall the cost for a girl's school uniform is about $400 with extras, according to Korea Today. The cost of a boy's uniform is about $200. Schools state to parents that overall a uniform and shirts will cost about $300.

North Korean School Uniforms

In North Korea, uniforms work to designate the job. Therefore, students from elementary to high school and even college will wear a designated uniform. The uniforms can vary by the region but will typically have the same basic components. Additionally, the color schemes are generally black, navy, white and red.

Girls' Uniforms

In North Korea, girls wear dresses or skirts. These might include a white collared shirt, pleated skirt and blazers. Most schools require a solid neck scarf typically in red to show political support of the Korean party. Some schools also have caps for girls as well. Younger girls might have a jumper rather than a skirt.

Boys' Uniforms

The boy's uniforms in North Korea match closely to that of their neighbor. Boys wear slacks, white collared shirts, blazers and sometimes caps. Like the girls, boys will also have a solid red scarf.

North Korean school children

Effects of School Uniforms

There are mixed opinions about school uniforms. Therefore, it is important to examine the positive and negative effects. To start, many Koreans believe school uniforms engender several positive effects like:

  • Enhances school work
  • Creates a sense of community and belonging
  • Decreases spending and teen-aged consumerism
  • Eliminates discrimination between rich and poor students
  • Heightens security, as intruders may be identified more easily
  • Makes morning routines easier

There are also a number of negative effects that school uniforms can bring like:

  • Limits growth of self-expression
  • Hinders personality growth
  • School colors can intensify rivalries
  • Uniforms don't promote gender equality

History of School Uniforms in Korea

The idea of school uniforms before the 1900s came from the hanbok, which was a traditional style of clothing worn during the Joseon Dynasty. However, during the early 1900s, the school uniform became more westernized. The shirts shortened and the boy's uniforms became more like the worker uniform. The uniforms today are very similar to those found in Western cultures; however, schools have taken a more individualized approach, making their unique uniforms stand out.

Korean dress

Uniform Style

Uniforms have a long history in both North and South Korea. Not only do they make the student body uniform, but they can even show patriotic pride. Many Korean school uniforms have even become fashion accessories.

Korean School Uniforms Overview