When discussing ways to revive and develop the Vietnamese Ao dai, Phan Thanh Hai, Director of the Department of Culture and Sports, drew a comparison to the Korean Hanbok. During his trip to Korea to attend the Hanbok exhibition event, Hai was impressed with the professional organization and believed that the popularity of Hanbok could serve as a model for Vietnamese Ao dai in becoming a product of the creative and cultural industries.

At the conference “UNESCO Creative Cities Network and the possibility of transforming cultural resources in Hue,” Hai recounted his experience visiting the exhibition, which attracted over 100 companies specializing in designing traditional and modern Hanbok styles and accessories such as hats, scarves, shoes, bags, handbags, brooches, hairpins, and wigs. Hai observed that the Korean people take pride in Hanbok and have methodically worked to educate about traditions and promote tourism. Despite being less commonly worn in daily life compared to the Vietnamese Ao dai, Hanbok has still built a famous brand and achieved international recognition.

One key factor in the success of Hanbok is the Korean government’s recognition of its value and active support in its recovery, branding, and promotion. The government encourages designers and artisans in the development of Hanbok, treating it as a specific cultural product and a national brand. They also leverage technology to support the recovery and spread of Hanbok through digital means. Hai considers these lessons from the Korean Hanbok to be extremely valuable in making Vietnamese Ao dai a typical product of the creative and cultural industries.

In the immediate future, Hai believes it is necessary to officially recognize and honor the Ao dai as a valuable traditional cultural heritage of Vietnam and include it in the list of national intangible cultural heritage. Thua Thien Hue province has already submitted documents for the registration of Ao dai with two criteria: the profession of tailoring Ao dai and the usage of Ao dai by Hue people. For the long term, Hai suggests creating a dossier with specific criteria to request UNESCO to enroll Ao dai in the Representative List of Intangible Heritage. However, he emphasizes the importance of officially honoring Ao dai nationwide first.

The project “Hue – the Capital of Vietnamese Ao dai” is currently being implemented with specific goals and is considered a typical cultural model. Hai emphasizes the need for a national policy to revive and develop this costume, treating Ao dai as a precious heritage and a national brand similar to how Koreans treat Hanbok. Relevant ministries and branches should be assigned to research and promulgate supportive policies for the development of artisans, materials, exhibitions, design competitions, and overall promotion of Ao dai.

Tracy Dao