The 117th Congress was officially sworn in at Capitol Hill on Sunday. Among the flock of suited lawmakers, a woman stood out in a red jeogori and a navy chima, the Korean traditional jacket and skirt.
Her name is Marilyn Sun-ja Strickland, the first Korean-American Democrat to be elected as member of the House of Representatives in the state of Washington in November last year. Sworn in in a red mask matching the color of her jacket’s sleeves and lapels, the female lawmaker held the limelight of the Sunday ceremony. She was the first American lawmaker to take an oath in hanbok, Korean traditional dress.
“As a woman of both Korean-American and African-American descent, it was deeply personal to wear my hanbok,” said Strickland on her twitter, adding that it symbolizes not only her heritage but respect for her mother. At Congress, Strickland explained that she wore the Korean dress to stress the importance of diversity with a hash tag hanbok.
From her election campaigns in November, Rep. Strickland emphasized her Korean-American origin. She posts pictures of her and her Korean mother on SNS channels, often expressing her pride about “her Korean roots” in media interviews. It appears that the choice of outfit on Sunday reflects her intention to make a strong impression as political debutant in Washington.
Marilyn Strickland is among the four Korean-American representatives to be sworn in the 117th Congress, along with Republican representatives Michelle Park Steel and Young Kim of California. Expectations are high that the four lawmakers of Korean descent will play a major role in promoting the rights of Korean communities in the U.S. and improving bilateral relations between Seoul and Washington.