'Sesame Street' Welcomes Ji-Young, the Show’s First Korean American Character

Some of Ji-Young's personality comes from her puppeteer Kathleen Kim, a 41-year-old Korean American woman who got into puppetry in her 30s. 

Meet the newest member of "Sesame Street," Ji-Young, who at 7 years old is already making history. She is the first Korean-American character on the show, which has been on the air for 52 years.

Ji-Young has two passions: rocking out on her electric guitar and skateboarding. 

"It was very important to us that she was not generically pan-Asian because that's something that I think all Asian Americans have experienced," puppeteer Kathleen Kim explained.  

"You know, they want to lump us into this monolithic Asian, but they had a Korean puppeteer, and so it was very important that she was specifically Korean American, not just generically Korean. But she is born here. She embraces her culture, but she's also American."

Some of Ji-Young's personality comes from Kathleen Kim, a 41-year-old Korean American woman who got into puppetry in her 30s. 

In 2014, she was accepted into a "Sesame Street" workshop, which evolved into her becoming part of the team the following year. She says being a puppeteer on a show she watched growing up was a dream come true.

But it wasn't until Kathleen stepped into this role that she saw herself reflected in the cast.

"We want her to be like, bold, and she wants to rock out," Kim said. "She's a lot more confident than I was as a kid."

Ji-Young's arrival came as a result of many discussions after the events of 2020, including George Floyd's death and rising anti-Asian hate incidents.

That's when "Sesame Street" reflected on how they could meet the moment.

"My one hope, obviously," Kim said," is to actually help teach what racism is, help teach kids to be able to recognize it and then speak out against it. But then my other hope for Ji-Young is that she just normalizes seeing different kinds of looking kids on TV." 

Ji-young will be featured heavily in the new season, not just for content related to racial justice. She'll pop up in various digital programs.

"It's not about me, and it's not even about Ji-Young," Kim said. "It's about this message, and it's about bringing representation, inclusivity, and teaching tolerance and friendship and understanding."

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