So far, the Olympics opening ceremony has made my jaw drop over and over again. It. Is. BEAUTIFUL! While the show itself has alluded to many different cultural symbolisms, so has the fashion that's appeared. The meaning of Korea's white coats at the 2018 Olympics opening ceremony could be conveying a huge message, proving once again that clothing is immensely powerful.
In January, it was reported that North and South Korean athletes would march together under a unified flag following days of talks between the countries. It was an announcement that signified a diplomatic breakthrough between the nations, whose deep-rooted tensions have caused decades of internal political and social turmoil. While the decision by both sides to march together at the Olympics is certainly indicative of a more unified and peaceful future, some of Seoul's allies have expressed concern "that Pyongyang may be using the talks to buy time to pursue its weapons program," according to CNN.
Regardless, when athletes from both countries walked out together under the Korean unification flag, which depicts North and South Korea's collective silhouette in light blue, it was certainly a hopeful and inspiring sight. The countries haven't marched together under the flag since the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, so it's certainly a momentous occasion.
Globally, the color white symbolizes peace, hope, light, goodness, beginnings, and a bunch of other objectively positive things. In Korea, specifically, it's one of five colors that are regularly incorporated into many aspects of their culture, from clothing to art to architecture. According to Our Everyday Life, white is the most commonly used color in Korea and symbolizes purity, innocence, peace, and patriotism. Taking this into account, it makes sense as to why the Korean athletes would arrive to the ceremony in all-white puffer coats emblazoned with their country's name on the back in black.
The puffer coats reach down to the mid-calf and feature boxy silhouettes and connected hoods. Aside from their horizontal paneling and the aforementioned "KOREA" text, they are otherwise largely void of any stylistic details, which makes them even cooler, in my opinion. They remind me of the streamlined puffers that have gained so much traction within street wear as of late, maybe because they were paired with what look to be amped up track pants and of-the-moment slip-on sneakers. In short: the Korean athletes looked chic!
As soon as they walked out as a collective force waving the unification flag, I couldn't help but to assume that white had been chosen as their main uniform color as a means of conveying the message that they were making major efforts to reunite, or at least come to a peaceful and positive agreement with one another. The sea of people clothed in white, waving their hugely meaningful flag made a powerful visual statement to me — I can't imagine the emotions it must have stirred in the Korean people. According to Our Everyday Life, "Koreans were sometimes referred to as 'the white clad people'" because of their heavy usage of the color within their culture. Their uniforms at the opening ceremony certainly alluded to that reference, whether intentional or not.
While it will be interesting to see how the two countries progress post-Olympics, it's been inspiring to see how they've come together in the past few weeks. North and South Korean skiers have been training together for the games at a resort in North Korea, and it was announced that both countries would come together to form a joint women's ice hockey team which will be competing in the Olympics.
Throughout the opening ceremony, white remained an integral color — it was worn by large groups of performers on numerous occasions and appeared within the puppets and props used for the storytelling portions of the show. Hopefully, this year's winter Olympics will also be a marker of new beginnings.