School days in Korea are accompanied by the mandatory school uniform. For many, it's the symbol of their youth!
However, school uniforms these days are not like what they used to be!
Outside a girls' high school in Seoul, students are streaming out after a hard day of learning.
Their short skirts instantly catches the eye. They are no different from miniskirts!
Some of these skirts go 20 cm above the knee!
[Interview : ] "Shorter skirts are more flattering. They make your legs look slimmer."
[Interview : Kim Eun-ju, Student] "If I wear long skirts, my friends will make fun of me."
[Interview : PD] "Why[Interview : Kim Eun-ju, Student] "I don't know. I think short skirts are just the trend among students these days."
[Interview : Choi Ji-hye, Student] "If you wear long skirts, you look like someone who can't keep up with the times."
Just ten years ago, uniform skirts used to go below the knee. But they have been gradually shortening.
The trend has gone to an extreme this year.
It's enough for some grown ups to be concerned.
[Interview : Byeon Jeom-sun, Seoul resident] "As skirts get shorter, I get more worried. I have two daughters myself. There are so many sexual predators these days, and skirt lengths will keep on getting shorter. I'm afraid my daughters may be exposed to bad influences."
[Interview : Kang Myeong-bun, Seoul resident] "Although the trend these days is to wear shorter skirts, I'm worried that they're getting too short."
Yet, students are in a race to raise their hemlines. Although schools try to regulate their uniforms, it's not easy. This student even carries a long skirt in her bag as a decoy.
[Interview : ] "You get scolded by your parents and at school."
[Interview : ] "We wear long skirts only in front of our parents and in school. When we're going out, we change into shorter skirts."
[Interview : PD
] "Do many of your friends do that[Interview : ] "Yes."
The clothes alteration business is also in a boom these days thanks to the trend.
[Interview : ] "How much do you want to shorten it[Interview : ] "I want it to be 10 to 15 cm above the knees."
In these shops, students can have their skirts shortened and tightened to their liking. A snip and stitch does the trick.
[Interview : Yim Sang-gyun, Tailor] "School uniforms used to be big and loose, but the trend these days is to wear them tight and short."
Since uniform skirts don't come out of the factory so short, students bring them to tailors to alter them. One can easily see the difference at first sight.
[Interview : Kim Ui-in, Student] "It's so much prettier and fashionable. I think it was a good choice to shorten it."
Shorter skirts may be trendier but they also cause many problems. This student covers her skirt with her bag when boarding the bus. Same goes for these students using the overpass.
[Interview : Choi Na-yeong, Student] "As the skirt is too short, you cannot take long steps. Because you cannot take long steps, you tend to spread your legs wider apart when you walk. So shorter skirts actually change the way you walk."
Why do students insist on wearing short skirts despite the discomfort
Miniskirts and hot pants have been popularized by pop stars since last year. The fashion has even been given the nickname "disappearing hemlines."
Hemlines are rising all across Korea. Teenagers are the most sensitive to trends, thus the micro mini uniform skirts!
[Interview : Kim Yeong-bok, Teacher] "When some kids begin wearing shorter skirts, everyone starts to follow the trend one by one. As the skirts keep getting shorter and more daring, more and more students think it's cute and begin to wear short skirts too."
In the past, only rebellious teenagers were thought to wear short uniform skirts, but nearly everyone wears them these days. Now, students even carry around blankets to cover their legs!
[Interview : Shin Ha-yeong, Student] "Since skirts these days are too short, I use this to cover my legs when I'm sitting. "
Students are willing to brave the discomfort in order to be trendy.
The situation has forced schools to find alternative solutions.
In this classroom, the girls' desks are covered in the front unlike the boys'.
[Interview : Kim Ji-won, Student] "These are desk covers installed by the school."
[Interview : PD] "Is there a reason for installing these[Interview : Kim Ji-won, Student] "It's to ensure that our legs are covered when we're sitting down."
Short skirts rise up far too high when the students are sitting, so these desks have been fitted with covers to prevent exposure. The school has installed these covers in five classrooms this year.
[Interview : Ahn Ju-yeong. Student] "It helps us concentrate better since we don't have to get self-conscious about our skirts and posture."
[Interview : Ku Jae-seung, Teacher
Namwonju Middle School
] "Male teachers have always felt uncomfortable when disciplining female students over skirt lengths. This problem has been solved now. Both students and teachers can now feel at ease in the classroom."
This school is not alone in installing desk covers. The Gangwon Province Office of Education plans to spend 740,000 US dollars this year to install 50,000 desk covers in schools.
[Interview : Kang Yeong-gwon, Government staff
Gangwon Province Office of Education] "We plan to make it mandatory for girls' schools to purchase desks with front covers in the future."
The trend of disappearing hemlines has reached well into the classrooms. Although grown ups may worry, students have one message for them.
[Interview : Kim Ui-in, Student] "Teenagers have their own trends, and I hope that the adults will try to understand that."
Korean uniform skirts have become incredibly short these days.
Should they be seen as a simple fashion statement
It certainly is a controversy but it's not the first time.
In the 1970s police went around with rulers.
To measure girls' skirts Yeah. My mom was stopped by the police all the time.
Did she have to go to jail She had to go to the station. And they But she was able to
I guess there really was a fashion police back then. But trends seem to come and go do you think girls will ever give up their short skirts I doubt it. Once it's short it tends to stay that way.