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Why did the Padres call a hanbok shop in LA before MLB opening game in Seoul?

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The golden hanboks made the San Diego Padres players shine. The Padres wore customized hanboks, presented by Ha-seong Kim and the club, to the official opening game of the Major League Baseball (MLB) Seoul Series last month (March 20).

The hanbok is traditional Korean clothing characterized by vibrant colors and simple lines, often worn during festivals and celebrations

The hanboks , featuring the team logo and each player’s number, were made by Laura Park, owner of LeeHwa Wedding and Hanbok, a hanbok shop operating in LA Koreatown for over 30 years.

The Korea Daily met with Laura Park at LeeHwa Wedding and Hanbok on April 2, after she returned from Korea. “It’s been a very secretive project for months, so it’s refreshing to finally be able to talk about it,” Park said.

A total of 37 hanboks (30 players and seven staff members) were specially made for the project. After returning from Korea on March 29, Park put the hanboks in gift boxes and is preparing to officially send them to the Padres.

 

Ha-seong Kim and Manny Machado dressed in hanboks for a YouTube video promoting the club. [Padres YouTube Captures]

The following is an edited excerpt from the interview:

-How did it all start?
“It was mid-April last year. The club contacted me first. At the time, I didn’t receive a call at the hanbok shop. It was a good thing. If I had, I would have thought it was a funny joke and hung up. As I didn’t answer the phone call, the club contacted my daughter on social media. What really surprised me was that the club had already done all the research on the hanbok before contacting us.”

-What was the reason for the request?
“I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, and this really brought me to tears. They told me that they could have asked someone in Korea to make the hanbok, but they chose us because they wanted to support local businesses. I was so grateful that an American sports organization cared so much about local businesses because even Korean government agencies here have never done that.”

-What was the production process like?
“Work started in earnest in the summer. My daughter, who is now a lawyer in Michigan, joined me in meetings with the club. We must have had dozens of video conferences. We decided on everything from the style of the hanbok to the patterns, colors, and designs in detail with the club. The color was decided to be golden to highlight the Padres’ team color, yellow.”

-What are the characteristics of this hanbok?
“This is the year of the dragon, so we chose a dragon pattern. The dragon pattern on the chest is made by hammering gold foil directly onto the chest. Also, each hanbok has the player’s number, so Ha-seong Kim’s hanbok has the number 7 on it. On the inside of the neck, we also put ‘SD’, the Padres’ logo.’

-How did you measure the hanbok?
“Since the event was timed to coincide with the opening game of the Seoul Series, everything had to be done in secret without the players knowing. Even the staff in the hanbok sewing room didn’t know until the last minute. The club only gave us the height and weight of the players. So we had to research each player by ourselves through Google and other sources. That’s why we chose the Durumagi (overcoat hanbok) style for the hanbok. The Durumagi is a coat, so it’s okay to have a little extra space between the body and the hanbok.”

-How did you feel when you saw the athletes in hanbok?
“I am now in my sixties. I’ve been through the ups and downs of running a hanbok shop. I did it to make a living, but it’s really hard to make hanbok without a sense of mission and patriotism. I’ve worked as a woman for more than 30 years with that feeling. Just knowing that I’ve dressed world-class athletes in hanbok gives me a sense of comfort and I’m very proud of myself.”

-Did you watch the opening game of the Seoul Series?
“My whole family traveled to Korea to watch the game in person. Throughout the entire project, I kept getting the feeling that the Padres had a lot of respect for Korea. Not only during the video conference, but I could tell that they were researching hanbok designs, history, and taking this project very seriously and with all their hearts.”

Laura Park, Owner of LeeHwa Wedding and Hanbok, is introducing a Durumagi (overcoat hanbok) with Kim’s No. 7 on it. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]

☞ LeeHwa Wedding and Hanbok

opened in 1993 in LA Koreatown. Laura Park opened the hanbok store after she came to the United States to study. She was influenced by her maternal grandmother, who made clothes in North Korea and ran a cloth shop in Gwangjang Market in Seoul after moving to South Korea. For more than 30 years, Park has been promoting hanbok in America and organizing hanbok fashion shows at her own expense. LeeHwa Wedding and Hanbok is not just for Koreans; the hanbok experience program, which started in 2021, has been gaining popularity among non-Koreans as well, thanks to its exposure on social media.

BY YEOL JANG, JUNHAN PARK    [jang.yeol@koreadaily.com]

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