Luxury Korean Hotel Chain Gives Out Traditional Japanese Robe

The yukata provided in the VIP rooms of Hotel Shilla
While not every Korean is a hater of Japan, anti-Japan sentiment is nothing new in Korea. The Shilla, a famous 5-star hotel chain run by the daughter of Samsung’s chairman, stirred up this deep-rooted sentiment yet again by equipping all its VIP rooms with yukata, a Japanese traditional everyday dress. This issue originated from a blog post translated below and was made viral by the media.

While some people believe that it does not matter whether a European bathrobe or a Japanese yukata is provided in hotel rooms, others think it is a shame that a Korean hotel chain is promoting Japanese traditional culture over Korea’s one. Moreover, The Shilla is infamous for having rejected the entry of a hanbok [Korean traditional dress] designer wearing a hanbok to their buffet restaurant for health and safety reasons, earning them double the criticism. [Hanbok vs. Yukata rivalry taken to a whole new level here]

[Note: the notation ‘Shilla’ and ‘Silla’ denote the same word 신라, which is the name of one of Korea’s three kingdoms that existed between 57 BC and 935 AD.]

From Daum:

The Shilla, which turned its back on Hanbok, only provides Japanese traditional clothes to its VIP visitors

I had a call from a Japanese acquaintance of mine, who knows about Korea quite well and frequently visits Korea. He told me that there was a yukata hirosode, a traditional everyday dress from Japan (compared to kimono which is a formal dress), in his hotel room. As shown in the picture, it was an actual yukata and not a bath robe tailored in Western fashion.

It probably seemed weird even to a Japanese person. He asked, ‘do Korean hotels usually place Japanese traditional dresses in their rooms, like this?’ and I answered absentmindedly, ‘they probably provided you with that because you were a visitor from Japan.’ To this he replied, ‘that’s not true, because I have just checked and yukatas are placed in every room on the Executive Floor Lounge (VIP floor) in this hotel.’

I couldn’t understand. If a Korean person stayed on the EFL floor, he or she would surely feel uncomfortable. Nevertheless I ended up making up excuses for the hotel, thinking that the reason might be that the hotel simply receives a lot of Japanese visitors. Not so convinced, my acquaintance responded, ‘is that so?’

Suddenly at that instant a thought crossed my mind. Just to make sure, I asked which hotel he was staying at. Giving the name of his hotel, he said ‘The Shilla.’ Now, it was beyond something strange, but a problem. There would be Western visitors as well as Korean ones among the guests staying on the VIP floor, and they would all be provided with Japanese traditional clothes. [I thought it was problematic because] Some guests might mistake yukata for a Korean traditional dress. I don’t mean that the hotel should provide Hanbok [traditional dress of Korea], which is uncomfortable to put on and take off. Still there was no reason to put a Japanese dress for everyday attire. Moreover, this particular hotel has created social controversy in April last year, by refusing entry of a Hanbok designer clad in Hanbok to their buffet restaurant. Both this hotel and some other firm’s affection towards Japan is more than well known, but I wonder if they had to go this far. [‘Some firm’ here refers to Samsung; the daughter of its chairman is running The Shilla]

A hotel chain that represents a country also acts like a window for that country open towards the rest of the world. That means the hotel chain should make the world know about the country’s traditional culture. Might it be that The Shilla hotel is embarrassed about Korean culture? I also feel ashamed myself, for responding without much criticism towards the event, to my Japanese acquaintance who brought up the subject.

* A sequel to the above post

There were strong repercussions after the above story was posted on my blog on Daum. Major presses including the Yonhap News dealt with this event in their articles titled something around ‘controversy over provision of Japanese traditional dress on Hotel Shilla’s VIP floor.’ I am grateful for sympathising with my criticism, but it was a pity that Korean reporters haven’t covered the story properly. While it is understanding that they referred to me as ‘a netizen,’ it would have given them more confidence to at least reveal the source of the photos when they were using the ones from my blog.

Moreover the articles ended up filled only with excuses and justifications from the Hotel. I used to work as a reporter, so of course I confirmed the details before posting the story. It is not true that yukata was provided only to Japanese visitors, like the Hotel justified. At around 6 minutes past 7 PM on Sunday 8th July, I pretended to be a potential guest and personally asked the Hotel about this. ‘My Japanese friend told me about Japanese yukata placed in the rooms while he was staying at Hotel Shilla. I’m Korean, but can I also wear yukata while I stay there?’ I asked, and the Hotel’s clerk clearly replied, ‘of course. Yukatas are provided in all the rooms on the EFL (VIP) floor.’ If they [the reporters] were going to agree with the viewpoint and write an article about it, it would have been nice to probe deeper into the matter, at least covering more than what I, a mere blogger, have. This event made me look back on the status of Korean media once again.

Comments from the blog:

주은정:

Is The Shilla hotel Japanese? Why are there so many people with Japanese nationality in Korea?

공원남:

While Samsung’s love for Japan is a deep one, many consumers in the global market think Samsung is a Japanese brand. And Samsung enjoys that misconception rather than try to correct it. I feel bitter to think it is so typical of Samsung.

허널:

Such ignorance.. You guys have probably never been to a hotel before so don’t know anything about it… Bathrobes (towels and the like) are provided as default and hotels provide [different ones] as part of their unique brand image, even if the foreign visitors are not all Japanese. It’s pathetic to see people finding faults to shape the public opinion.. Try visiting all the 5-star hotels in Korea before you say another word, pathetic youngsters.. Try ringing all the 5-star hotels, you nitwits. It’s boiling so wash your feet and go to bed.

트로이의 목마:

Unless there is a photo of someone wearing it [it’s hard to tell what it is], because all that is photographed is one that is folded up…

음….:

It doesn’t stir up controversy if the amenities (shampoo, body wash and soap) are imported, but it’s a problem to provide Japanese clothing. So this event clearly seems to have arisen from anti-Japanese sentiment…

본좌:

What the hell is wrong with the asses who say that’s not yukata? ㅡㅡ; If you don’t know [about yukata], just be honest and say you don’t know. If it was provided specifically for Japanese guests, why would anyone criticise it? Rather, they would say it was sensible. But the above post says that yukata was provided across the entire VIP floor and that’s why people are mad as hell about it. Is yukata internationally provided and used in VIP floors? Is the VIP floor of The Shilla hotel only for the Japanese guests? Please think, please, dodo-heads..Shit even the Japanese person thinks it’s weird~!!! Then isn’t it natural for a Korean person to think it’s weird?

Comments from Nate – Hankook Daily, in response to the article referring to the issue:

최정인:

I knew that The Shilla hotel was a pro-Japan Jap company from its roots upwards… ‘Pro-North Commies‘ and ‘descendents of pro-Japan Japs‘ are openly revealing their pro-Japan penchants and taking over the country; this is Korea’s reality….

이대선:

I felt shit as soon as I set out to work [because I saw this article]. You block Hanbok and put up Japanese clothes. Do you still call yourself Korean? Get lost to Japan, which is sinking~

최성호:

[The] Shilla… Take your title off… Isabu, General of Silla… is crying underground… [Isabu was a general during the Silla dynasty who made various contributions to guard and expand the nation’s territory, and fought Japanese, among many foreign enemies]

전현아:

There’s an inextricable connection between Kun-Hee Lee [chairman of Samsung Electronics] and Japan… His (step-)mother is Japanese, his half-sister is Japanese, and his elder sister-in-law (owner of Hansol Group) is Japanese…

김상태:

Most tourists to Korea probably came to experience Korean food and tradition. Why would the so-called 5-star hotels put something that the tourists would wear daily in their homeland, and not show some authentic Korean tradition? If they instead modified Hanbok into a nice pajama, they would get lots of praise for their good work.

한미경:

They call themselves the no.1 firm in Korea, but they use money they get from Korean people to treat the Japanese…. They should not dare talk about Korean pride. That [yukata] wouldn’t be all. If you searched around the hotel like playing a picture puzzle, you’d find loads of other things with Japanese influence.

김재근:

Ah, my motherland Korea, I feel so sorry for you…

조성민:

Don’t use the title ‘Silla’ because it taints the word. Change the title to Hotel Nippon. [Nippon is another way of saying ‘Japan’ in Japanese]

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  • asdf

    Who cares if it’s kimono, yukata or w/e they choose to call it. It’s just a Chinese Hanfu with flowers on it. Real traditional Japanese clothing is the Fundoshi.

  • In the midst of watching THE GREAT QUEEN SEONDEOK, this sickens me. Koreans be proud. The Japanese shudder at the word Samsung. WTF?

    • Bruce Tutty

      Have you considered making sense?

    • Danny

      Haha bullshit. Japanese dont give a fuck. And its not as if korea is the most successful asian country. China is. Fuck korea

  • Josh

    The Korean Hanbok is scientifically proven to be the most comfortable clothing. Many Korean women put on their Hanboks to run errands or watch tv. I am disgusted by this hotel chain. Next you’re going to tell that these 5 star hotels require guests to sleep in Western style beds instead of the superior Korean floor mattresses or perhaps they are forced to defecate in a godless Western style toilet instead of a morally superior hole in the ground.

    • Reiss

      “The Korean Hanbok is scientifically proven to be the most comfortable clothing.”

      woah, you won the Internet!

    • Bruce Tutty

      A hole in the ground is more morally correct than a seat?…laying on the ground is more advanced…you are strange

      • Reiss

        No, it’s just pin point and sharp irony. The thing that Josh aims is that Koreans don’t have any problem with anything coming from abroad until the thing is from Japan :) To illustate you: when a Korean uses a computer manyfactured by, let say, US company he’ll say: “Hmm… It’s just as good and maybe even better than Korean one” but if that computer would be manufactured by Japanese company he would say something like: “From the start I knew it was just a pile of shit but after using it for five minutes I threw it through the window!”.

        • Josh

          Thank goodness. You nailed it. It really is such a non-issue. What people need to understand is that Korea was essentially imported: their buildings, their music, their fashion, their cars. Sure they make this stuff, but they aren’t “from” Korea. Most of modern Korean culture is a blatant rip-off of Japanese culture. So it’s fine if you want to rip off J-pop, dress in Uniqlo, or eat ramen, but don’t wear a comfortable bathrobe in the privacy of your hotel.

    • Noori

      Gee, is it a new way of trolling Korea?

    • John Holmes

      ahahahah you win!

  • 참을 수 없는 존재의 가벼움

    The origin of the faulty line between pro-Japanese and anti-Japanese or moderates dates back to the liberation of Korea from the Japanese rule by the US force at the end of WW II.

    During a staggering 36 years of colonial exploitation by Japan, some Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese occupation force for personal gain, not being hesitant to maltreat their fellow citizens.

    But after the colonial rule’s end, almost all of them went unpunished and even flourished politically and financially, on the support of the US occupation force who needed the highly educated collaborators to take over the control from a defeated Japan because it had little knowledge of a liberated Korea. This is a saddeningly stark contrast to situations in other Europeans countries liberated from the Nazi rule, at the end of WW II, most notably the post-war situation in France.

    The historical tragedy is that children of indenpdence activists, who sacrificed themselves for the country’s liberation, receive little education because they were always on the run from Japanese Gestapo or went hiding, while children of betrayers got higher education in western countries or Japan, becoming intellectuals, who the US occupation force needed later.

    Furthermore, with a post-liberation fragile Korean democracy giving way to dictatorahip, for garner legitimacy for their autocratic rule a bunch of strongmen launched a series of economic growth programs. This proved a stunning success though behind a partina of success there were untold ineffable laborers sacrifice.

    The so-called miraculous growth under the military junta’s rule allowed a few businesses to profited immensely from economic growth schemes, later blossoming into conglomerates, or chaebel.

    Interestingly enough, these economic big hands allegedly are of Koreans collaborators’ descent. (so are major conservative papers, which explains partially why the ill-fated former president Roh Moo-hyun called for reforms of those papers, to which they responded by blindedly downplaying his performance.)

    In a nutahell, tormenting experiences from the Japanes colonial rule did not come to an end, rather have pervaded deep into the whole society.

    This ia why Koreans consider criticism from foreigners for supposedly blind anti-Japanese sentiment as lack of understanding of Korean history.

    • Patrick

      “This ia why Koreans consider criticism from foreigners for supposedly blind anti-Japanese sentiment as lack of understanding of Korean history.”

      How many Samsung, or chaebul owned products do you own, or do other Koreans? If this is how strongly most Koreans feel about it then boycott their products. Bah… hogwash

    • Bruce Tutty

      So this is the reason for getting so upset about your pajamas?…oh please!

    • Gabrielle

      “This ia why Koreans consider criticism from foreigners for supposedly blind anti-Japanese sentiment as lack of understanding of Korean history.”

      The thing is, most of the rest of the world haven’t lived in peace during 20th century (I’m very tempted by a ” that’s why foreigners consider self-pity about Korean history from Koreans as a lack of understanding of the world history”). Every country fought against its neighbours. But time pass by, we start talking to each other again, and then forgive each other. That’s was “time” is for.
      Except for Korean, apparently.

  • 참을 수 없는 존재의 가벼움

    Some people who excell in misreading articles are adept at making shenanigans. What an amazing dexterity!!

  • galap

    Who does the hell care about this… c’mon it’s just a bathrobe, whatever it is Japanese or Korean or Made in China

    • Brett Sanbon

      What you mean is: “I don’t care about this so no one else should, either”.

      Sorry, but it is very clear that not everyone in Korea thinks like you. Hate to burst your bubble.

      • galap

        Obviously Brett you are right, i did learn to read English in deed… however i also believe people can have different thoughts and post them on the comment section as this is actually the purpose of .. a comment section. All opinions are valuable. I know that there are also people in Korea that dont care about this. Sorry and hate to open your eyes.

        • Brett Sanbon

          I agree that most likely many Koreans care very little about this. But dont try to justify your comment as “different thoughts”. I dont think your opinion isn’t valuable, I just don’t think that saying “who cares” is as much of an opinion as it is an accusation towards the people who do care.

          • Bruce Tutty

            Perhaps the point is that they shouldn’t care about a piece of clothing that someone else is using. Certainly not to the point of getting nationalistic about it.

          • Brett Sanbon

            Understandable Bruce, but I would be afraid the internet had broken if Korean netizens no longer became extremely nationalistic over anything Japanese.

  • lonetrey

    … it’s a bathrobe. Unless the company that manufactured the bathrobe is from Japan and has a reputation of using slavelabor or toxic materials, I don’t give a damn about it’s Japanese-style origin.

    (Prioritize) function over form, people.

    • Brett Sanbon

      Are you Korean?

    • galap

      Be careful… Some people here might think your comment is an “accusation towards the people that do care” ;)

      • Brett Sanbon

        Uh, no… he said that he doesnt care, not “I dont care, so no one else should care either” like ‘some people’ wrote.

    • John Holmes

      naked in the bathroom.

  • Matt

    This is OUTRAGEOUS!! All those ignorant “oh who cares” dimwits should learn some history! The yukata was responsible for 1.5 MILLION deaths during the subjugation of Korea! These yukata raped THOUSANDS of so-called “comfort women” in the lead up to WWII. Look it up!! My father was personally killed by a yukata bastard when he was still a child!!! ARGHHH I HATE YUKATA!!!!

    • Brett Sanbon

      The koreaBANG comments are getting more and more…interesting…

    • Ami

      if your father was killed as a “child” how are you alive?

      • Brett Sanbon

        I’m pretty sure Matt was taking the piss. Damn funny.

    • Danny

      Typical anti-japanese. So he had sex with your mom when he was still a child.. Fucking stupid.

  • Galap

    So you’re still trying to be some sort of psychiatrist and act as if you knew what others think or control one’s figure of speech. Plus you have a great sense of humour as i can also see. Peace

  • Cleo

    That is just the most raw most basic type of bathrobe. I bet the Koreans could actually steal Japanese tourism – and claim rightful heritage since the Japanese di teh favor of colonizing the peninsula and forced the Coreans to turn Japanese so actually, Coreans do have rights to their forced adopted family’s heritage. All that tourism income, Korea, think about it? All those Mainlanders afraid to set foot in Japan despite the fake news stories about how Chinese tourism is back to post irradiation levels in Japan.

    money, money, money, Koreans, money, money, money

  • Paul

    For VIP rooms, I’d have expected thicker, nicer looking fabric.

    I had a chuckle at the chap who argued they should have modified a hanbok into more comfortable sleepwear; isn’t that pretty much what a yukata is? Same historical origins, just a lot more cultural acceptance of revising a design with practicality over authenticity in mind in Japan.

  • Random Person

    A yukata is a lot less fussy and dangerous than a hanbok. Hanboks do not look good on anyone, I’m sorry to say. They make you look fat no matter how skinny you are. Imagine walking around in all that stuff.

    • anonmouse

      haha I second that. Unless you have a incredibly pretty/cute face, there’s no way you can decently pull off a hanbok. At least with a yukata it looks alright on everyone, even the obese clients.

      • Cleo

        yes, Korean girls do look sweeter in hanbok than Southern Chinese – the Korean stewardesses on their airlines are great cultural representatives for their country

        If I had kids, I would fly a Korean airline just so they could experience the stewardesses.

  • Cleo

    http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-09-23/china-japan-islands-dispute-stokes-south-korean-tourism-boom

    Korea, this is your chance – take the SHOT!!!!!

    PROMOTE KOREAN CULTURE – serve Japanese food side by side with the Korean versions, pocket Chinese tourist money for your expertise with Japanese-style “cuisine” – make the Chinese NEVER want to visit Japan.

    You don’t have earthquakes, you don’t have a Fukushima cover up, you never raped a Chinese baby, how can you lose?

  • Cleo

    Is there a luxury Seoul hotel that does traditional Corean design really well instead of the stereotypical five star luxury style that pervades all hotels worldwide? I think modern design doesn’t create the same congenial atmosphere as traditional Korean designs and tourists love that stuff.

  • Danny

    Stupid..

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