Korean Fortune Pouch

When my dad left for America at age 28, he left behind his parents and four other siblings in South Korea for a new life. Living with his older brother on Long Island, my father started out as an art student, but soon married my mother and created a family with the birth of their only daughter, me. But since he established his new life in the United States and raised me here, I do not remember ever meeting the majority of my dad's family who still live in Korea today. Although from time to time my relatives would send us little gifts and we would call them every year on New Year's Day, I always felt a huge distance between us. One year, they sent us a few presents over for the New Year, and one of these items was a bokjumoni, or a "fortune pouch" children would wear on their hanbok (Korean traditional dress) to keep the money they received on New Year's Day (the photo of the baby is me in my hanbok when I was around 1 or 2 years old). However, at the time, I did not own a hanbok, and thus could not use my pouch, so I decided to keep it in its packaging, so as not to damage it. I thought it was one of the most beautiful gifts I had ever received, but at the same time, it made me a bit troubled as well. The fact that I did not know what it was when I opened it, and that I could not use it felt like a metaphor for my ignorance. Yet when I look at it today, it rather symbolizes my beautiful heritage, and my desire now to learn more about my culture and family.

Place(s): Korea
Year: 2007

– Jenny Shin

Relationship:  unknown unknown