Korean Toys from the 1970s and 1980s

by Jay Cochran
January 28, 2008
A private collection of rare Korean toys from the 1970s and 1980s will be exhibited for the first time in the United States at The Korea Society. Toy Stories: Souvenirs from Korean Childhood, will open to the public on Thursday, January 31st, at 5:30 PM, in The Korea Society Gallery, located at 950 Third Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, New York.

The collection features over 90 children's toys from late 20th century South Korea -- a veritable toy box of flamboyantly colored action figures, robots, miniature tanks and paper dolls. These "objects of desire" suggest the soaring fantasies and fast-rising expectations of the period -- though often through sloppily copied contemporary American and Japanese toys. As cultural artifacts, the collection evokes an era when the hurried pace of industrialization meant that considerations of originality and fine-design could easily be dismissed. Still, despite their generally plagiarized genesis, the toys effectively reinvented the characters on which they are based, which were "Koreanized" for cartoons, commercials and comics in ways their foreign creators never imagined. Accompanied by children's magazines, advertisements and photos from the same period, Toy Stories: Souvenirs from Korean Childhood tells a story of a nation in economic and social transition. A series of animations aimed at children that were aired on Korean TV during this period will also be shown.

The objects in this exhibition are on loan from the collection of Hyeon Tae-Joon -- a renowned cartoonist and toy designer -- who resides in Seoul.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Aaron Magnon-Park, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, will examine the exhibition's rich background with a lecture entitled, "Our Toys Our Selves: Robot Taekwon V and South Korean Identity," on February 7th at 6:30 PM.

As part of its ongoing celebration of Korean toys, The Korea Society will sponsor a screening of the 1976 animated feature, Robot Taekwon V, on March 18th at 6:30 PM.

The exhibition will be mounted in The Korea Society Gallery located at 950 Third Avenue, 8th Floor, New York, New York. (The building entrance is on the SW corner of Third Avenue and 57th Street.) The exhibition will be open to the public, free-of-charge, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Visit https://www.koreasociety.org/ for more information.

Source: The Korea Society


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