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Korean Mourning Clothes

In Korea only men wore mourning clothes. The period of mourning for the father lasted three years. The son mourned for his mother also three years except she died during her husband's lifetime. In this case the mourning period was shortened to one year. Fiancées grieved not only for their own family but also for their future in-laws and their close family.

Funeral and memorial service being over, the mourner dressed in the clothes he had to wear for the entire mourning period.

The mourning cloak (sambe durumagi) made of yellowish natural linen was donned and held together with a cord.

The broad mourning hat (satgat / batgat) of flower shape covered the head down to the shoulders. The outside of the hat was covered with little bamboo sticks, the inner side with straw. Under the hat an inner hat (manggeon) and a headband (hyogeon) were worn.

In one hand the mourner carried the mourning stick; in the other hand he held the face covering (poseon). With this linen quadrangle fastened to two sticks the mourner shielded his face.

During the mourning period the mourner was not allowed to kill an animal, even insects or parasites. He could not attend weddings and family celebrations or go on longer travels.

With his clothes the mourner was in a sense a dead man himself in the eyes of his fellow men during the mourning period. Nobody was allowed to talk to him or to bother him. Even if he had committed a crime he could not be arrested.

Since the entry of foreign missionaries was prohibited and punished with the death penalty in the 19th century, the first French missionaries in Korea used mourning clothes to get into the closed and protected country to propagate the Catholic faith.