Meet Ji-Young, the very first Asian American Muppet and the newest resident on Sesame Street! According to Ji-Young’s bio on the Sesame Street website, she is a spunky 7 years old Korean American who loves playing an electric guitar with her Sesame Street friends, playing soccer, and skateboarding. “Ji-Young is extremely close with her family and is proud of her Korean heritage. She loves playing music with her grandma and cooking her favorite food—tteokboki. She and her family eats dinner together at the kitchen table every night, chatting in both Korean and English.”
“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,” she said. “But we were looking it up and guess what? Ji also means sesame.” Ji-Young explains what her name means in her AP interview.
Ji-Young’s puppeteer, Kathleen Kim who became a puppeteer in her 30s and joined Sesame Street in 2014, is also a Korean American. Kim explains that Ji-Young is very distinctively Korean American, not just Korean since she is born in the US or not generically Pan Asian American. Ji-Young’s character is very involved in the events in 2020 like George Floyd’s death and anti-Asian hate incidents.
Ji-Young is a great “upstander,” Sesame Street‘s term. “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 colour of their skin or the language they speak or where they’re from,” Kay Wilson Stallings, executive vice-president of creative and production for Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, said. “We want our audience to understand they can be upstanders.”
Ji-Young’s big debut is on Thanksgiving Day, November 25th on See Us Coming Together. Simu Liu, Naomi Osaka, Padma Lakshmi, Jim Lee, and other Asian American celebrities will be appearing in the special. This show will be aired on HBO Max, local PBS stations, and Sesame Street social media platforms.