When I was a child I spent a period of time living in Korea with my mother’s family. One of the things I remember vividly was the amount of fabric there was everywhere. Bedsheets, blankets, hanboks, cloth just everywhere.

My halmoni seemed to constantly be ironing fabric, but not using an electric iron, always using a traditional method of Dadeumi. It involved beating folded cloth with two wooden sticks over a block of stone. She would be there for hours beating the creases out of the fabric. When we moved to a place in the centre of Pusan she came over to help my mother out for a few weeks and what would you know, she brought her sticks with her! We had a modern flat with electricity and an electric iron (her place didn’t have any electricity) but still she insisted on bringing her sticks. She also always seemed to be beating cloth on her own, no one seemed to help her. Traditionally women would beat cloth together facing each other, but I think the rest of the family (and the world?) had cottoned onto the fact that electric irons were quicker. There was no convincing halmoni though.

Here is a video of two women beating folded cloth using Dadeumi. I absolutely love the sound! I can’t seem to find any information about the sound of dadeumi, but have come across text that hints at the idea that the rhythm of the sound helped the women to work at a good pace. The other thing that I discovered which is incredibly fascinating is that women would unpick all of the stitches of a hanbok, beat it, and then sew it back together again. Stitching was integral and part of daily life in Korea… as it is in most cultures, but I think so much more in Korea.

Dadeumi was often done in the evening and the sound took the country late into the night.


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