Asian American Congresswoman Makes History By Wearing Korean Hanbok to Swear In

Rep. Marilyn Strickland (D-Wash.) makes history as the first Korean American politician to appear in a traditional Korean outfit Hanbok during her swearing-in ceremony.

The 58-year-old politician won the November 2020 election and made history as one of the first three Korean American women to win an election to the House, according to The Hill. Strickland also became the first African American member to represent her state of Washington at the federal level.

In a tweet, Strickland wrote about the honor of not only being able to represent her heritage, but also of being part of the increasing diverse representation on the national level in the country and the responsibility it holds.

“Today, I was honored to be sworn into one of the most historically diverse Congresses in history, joining a record number of women, and women of color, serving in our Democratic Majority,” Strickland posted. “As a woman of both Korean-American and African-American descent, it was deeply personal to wear my #Hanbok, which not only symbolizes my heritage & honors my mother, but also serves as a larger testament to the importance of diversity in our nation, state, and the People’s House.”

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Strickland was born in South Korea to Inmin Kim, a Korean mother, and Willie Strickland, an African American soldier. Kim met her husband while he was stationed in South Korea. The couple later got married and moved their family to the United States, NBC News reported.

Her mother was influential in making Strickland culturally aware of her heritage, citing the life her mother endured from Japanese occupation of Korea to moving to a foreign country with no prior knowledge of English.

“I think her ability just to stay focused and maintain a sense of humor and just what she has endured is very, very inspirational to me,” she said.

In addition to honoring her mother, who could not come to the ceremony because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Strickland said she wore the Hanbok as a way to send a message about the racial climate happening in the country right now.

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“You know, we live in a place where bigotry and prejudice just has come to the surface,” she said. “I just wanted to send a message that the United States House of Representatives is the people’s house, and that means all people.”

Strickland became the first Black female mayor of Tacoma, Washington, before winning the November 2020 election. She is joined by Republicans Young Kim and Michelle Steel of California in the House.

Feature Images via @RepStricklandWA

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