After 52 years on the air, popular children’s television series Sesame Street has introduced its first-ever Asian American puppet. Fans, especially Asian Americans, are delighted to know that they will finally have representation in the beloved TV show, which has been a long time coming.
The latest addition to the gang is Korean American Ji-Young, who is set to debut on the See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special. The upcoming episode is the show’s Thanksgiving special and not only features the newest resident of Sesame Street but also a plethora of multicultural celebrities such as Simu Liu, Padma Lakshmi and Naomi Osaka.
41-year-old Korean American Kathleen Kim voices the dynamic and athletic muppet Jin-Young. It is a dream come true for the talented voice actress who began her work in puppetry almost ten years ago. She even joined a Sesame Street workshop in 2014. The inspiring woman shared about her new role, “I feel like I have a lot of weight that maybe I’m putting on myself to teach these lessons and to be this representative that I did not have as a kid.”
As for Jin-Young, the character loves soccer, skateboarding and playing the guitar. In addition, she loves to eat tteokbokki, a chewy rice cake and popular Korean food. In a recent interview, the muppet talked about the serendipitous meaning behind her name. She shared, “So, in Korean traditionally, the two syllables they each mean something different and Ji means, like, smart or wise. And Young means, like, brave or courageous and strong. But we were looking it up, and guess what? Ji also means sesame.”
Jin-Young is not the only newcomer to the franchise. Another muppet, Tamir, an 8-year-old boy, debuted in November of 2020. Both of these characters were created after the tumultuous events of 2020, specifically the death of George Floyd and anti-Asian hate incidents.
In response to these events, Sesame Workshop, led by executive vice-president of Creative and Production Kay Wilson Stallings, established two task forces. One of which is dedicated to studying the show’s content, and the other is to look at its own diversity. As a result, Coming Together, a multi-year initiative that addresses discussing crucial topics such as race, ethnicity, and culture to children, was developed.
Just like Tamir, Jin-Young will also teach children how to be a good “upstander.” As Kay Wilson Stallings expertly explained, “Being an upstander means you point out things that are wrong or something that someone does or says that is based on their negative attitude towards the person because of the color of their skin or the language they speak or where they’re from. We want our audience to understand they can be upstanders.”Sesame Street fans will finally meet and get to know the vibrant 7-year-old Korean American muppet Ji-Young on November 25 for its Thanksgiving episode See Us Coming Together: A Sesame Street Special. Viewers can catch the program on HBO Max, PBS KIDS and the Sesame Street social media channels.