Korean "Luck Pockets"

A museum’s hanbok cultural program.

Traditional Korean clothing, known as hanbok, is vibrant and elegant.  While old-fashioned it is still sold in various markets (at a hefty price), custom tailored, and worn at special events and holidays.  Even in the modern day and in my short time in Korea, I’ve seen hanbok numerous times, in shop windows, during traditional performances, or just on the street around a national holiday.  Many palaces and museums offer cultural programs that allow visitors a chance to don the beautiful clothing and parade around the grounds as royalty.  Hanbok is a staple in Korean culture, today and the ancient past.  


A young Korean boy
dressed in hanbok.

Although colorful and attractive, hanbok is lacking in one clothing essential: pockets.  Instead, while adorned in hanbok, men and women began carrying accompanying tiny totes called bokjumeoni, bok meaning “luck” and jumeoni meaning “pockets”.  Usually embroidered with a Chinese letter such as 
壽(Life), 福(Luck),  富(Wealth), 貴(Nobility), Korean people  believed the little bag brought the holder good fortune.  Made of the same silky material and bright colors, the small “luck pockets” closely resembled the carrier’s outfit so was also quite fashionable. 

They even make
hanbok for dogs!

Today, bokjumeoni is used most often as a gift bag to bequeath small presents of candy or money to friends and relatives.  Sometimes, children write down their wish on a piece of paper and put the slip inside the bag to make their wish come true.  It’s a similar idea to children writing letters to Santa Claus.  

The art project template:
an empty “lucky bag.”

This semester, one of my fourth grade lessons was learning the phrase, “I want _______.”  My Korean co-teacher introduced the idea of bokjumeoni to me and we thought it would be a great theme for the lesson.  We finished up the chapter with an art project.  Students could write down and decorate their wishes and glue it inside the “lucky bag” picture to make it come true.  It was a really fun activity and interesting to see the desires of Korean fourth graders. 

Since money is a traditional gift given using the bokjumeoni, money and gold was definitely a front runner in many students’ work. 

      “I want some gold and money.”                                         “I want some money.”

In the technologically advancing society of Seoul, it was no surprise the number of Smartphone wishes being made. 

“I want a Smartphone.”                     “I want a Smartphone.”                        “I want an iPhone.”

Since our classes are almost always in the morning before lunch, it was obvious which students’ stomachs were growling.  

Clockwise from top left: “I want soup.”; “I want a Smarphone and hamburger.”; “I want a hot dog and money.” ; “I want a soft chocolate cake.”

While many Korean students like to stick to the teacher’s examples or copy their friends’ works, a handful of students use art projects to delve into their creativity and ask the teacher for new English words. 

Left to right: “I want a mansion.”; “I want some wisdom.”; “I want a pet (panda) and gold.”; “I want a giant.”

And then there’s the one student who wants it all.

“I want Earth and a gold home.”

The project was really fun for both teacher and students.  Fingers crossed their dreams come true and they always remember their dear American English teacher when they’re blessed with millions of dollars and never-ending chocolate.

The “lucky bags” full of students’ wishes. 


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