What's your most prized possession and why do you cherish it so much?
This Barbie shows how far Korean culture has come
One of my most prized possessions would have to be this 1987 Korean Barbie, manufactured by Mattel. The Barbie is a valuable collector's item, but I enjoy it more so because it's proof of how far Korean culture and Korean women have come in the United States.
For those of you who don't know, South Korea is not the same country that it was in 1987. Through manufacturing deals and other methods, the country's economy had significantly grown by then in a phenomenon that's now referred to as the "Miracle of the Han River." And at the time that this Barbie was made, South Korea had put itself on the map for more reasons than just having a war in the 1950s, which rendered it one of the poorest countries in the world.
The Barbie isn't perfect. For one, South Koreans were not walking around in hanboks (the traditional dress you see in the Barbie wearing) all day, every day in 1987. Neither were they commonly "jugglers, acrobats, dancers and magicians," and they probably had better things to do than "fly beautiful kites shaped like dragons and fish" all day, as the back of the box puts it. There's a level of unnecessary exoticism that comes with this Barbie doll – and even today, there is no such doll that is explicitly Korean without being treated like a special edition series about world traditions.
But even so, it still makes me grin a bit when I think about the American kids who might have played with this and imagined Korean culture for a few minutes. It also makes me happy to think that Korean Americans in the late 1980s may have had some sign that they were being acknowledged in toy stores.
Plus, despite the endearingly bad romanization of words like 집 (house) and 친구 (friend) makes it fun to show to other Korean Americans!
What's your most prized possession?
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