The Hanbok

In Attire

My story is about my grandfather, who fled from North Korea to South Korea in 1950 as a 15-year-old boy. Because of the activities of the Korean War, he didn’t even get to say goodbye to his mother. He put himself through college, studying business and marketing in South Korea. He met my grandmother and married her in 1964.  They had three kids (one of them my mom) and moved to Queens in 1976, where Grandpa worked as a jewelry seller until he and his family had a decent living. The hanbok is an article of traditional clothing used in a Korean ceremony where a child, on the hundredth day of life, stands before a number of objects which are symbols for other things.  When the child reaches for an object it foretells what their lifestyle might be (pen=author, etc.). Despite the fact that My grandpa was working incredibly hard for so a long time, he still managed to find the time to celebrate his children’s hundredth day. This object basically holds his memories, struggles, and hardships inside the cloth. This colorful and vibrant piece of clothing, the hanbok, holds the burdens and struggles he went through. The object now holds so many untapped treasures for me to uncover as I can only imagine how much struggle he went through to finally have a break to relax and enjoy life.

Place(s): North Korea, South Korea, Queens.
Year: 1976

– Ben Mansfield

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant