Today I would like to share with you one of Korea’s loveliest cultural collectable dolls~ Youn-Ji 연지 by Sonokong! Youn-Ji 연지 is an 11″ fashion doll that was specially developed to celebrate Korean traditional beauty and aesthetics ♥
Korea makes lots of beautiful and extremely collectable dolls, so I am always on the lookout for new ones! Youn-ji immediately caught my attention last year when I came upon her during a visit to the ToysRus in Seoul~ sitting very pretty with her hanbok in a lovely collectable box.
Every so often I have come upon a doll with a special hanbok release like Ddung or even Barbie, but those pale in comparison to the detail put into Youn-Ji dolls. If you are looking for a special Hanbok doll for your collection or a gift, this is one of the best ones in terms of beauty and authenticity that you can buy!
Each doll is handmade here in Korea with absolute care for every single tiny piece. The dolls are designed with historical outfits in mind, and often names or designs are inspired by famous Korean tales or even traditional paintings. The fabric used to sew each outfit is authentic hanbok material, so the textures and look match the human-sized attire from the silk embroidered outerwear down to the rougher textured undergarments.
진달래 ( 63,000원)
Each face is hand-painted along with her rooted eyelashes and often very elaborate braided hair, complete with tiny ornaments.
“I’ve always loved the traditional Korean hanbok and have known its beauty since a young age. My wish was to create a true hanbok doll that could represent Korea” – Choi Shin-Kyu CEO & President of Sonokong co.
(Check out some old English subbed clips HERE from his “heart to heart” interview in 1999 about the doll line)
The brand launched in 1997 under much skepticism due to the cost of production and traditional subject matter, but the CEO felt very passionately about making a doll that could truly represent Korean culture so that Koreans and Foreigners alike could appreciate its beauty. Over the last few years she has found a nice market of collectors in Korea, this could be attributed to the massive popularity of “사극” historical period dramas.
The prices of the dolls range from around 35,000 won for the simplest designs to 80,000 won for hanboks with lots of details. Extremely elaborate outfits for royal weddings and such range from 100,000- almost 200,000 won due to all the details and time involved in making them. The company states that they try very hard to keep the price as low as possible for the customer by cutting the profits they should take vs cutting production costs.
♥ ♥ ♥
Considering the time, layering, and detail involved with many of the Youn-ji figures I found the prices to be very reasonable for a collectable doll like this considering they are made in small factories locally in lower production runs (about 500 I read in one interview) vs a massive production line someplace in China.
The doll’s name “Youn-Ji 연지” comes from “연지곤지“ which is the traditional red makeup worn in Korea when you get married AKA those red dots you often see in wedding photos or period dramas. 연지 is the name of the red make up dots used to mark the cheeks of the bride, and 곤지 is the name of the dot marked on the forehead.
The makeup is said to ward of bad spirits and is also used as a sign of virginity~
Interesting tidbit I dug up~ apparently Sonokong started making its dolls under a partnership with Takara (Japanese company of “Jenny” and “Licca-chan” doll fame) although I have not been able to find out clearly if Takara simply was consulted, commissioned to develop the dolls, designed the doll bases, etc since everything is painted and sewn in Korea now. In Youn-Ji’s early days from 1997-1999 you can see the Takara resemblance a LOT more in the sculpt, plus the quality was noticeably lower and it felt a bit more like a girls toy VS an expensive collectable.
벚꽃 날리다 (58,000원)
2011 녹원삼 (120,000원)
According to a a lot of Korean bloggers the hand screened gold leafing on the extra fancy royal dolls is very easy to flake away! Most recommended touching it as little as possible and keeping her in a display case.
2012 활옷 (165,000원)
황진이(플라워) ( 53,000원)
Youn-Ji does have a male doll you can purchase, however he seems to have always been sold as a set (for weddings and such) over the years and currently none are available on the official shop. I see lots of Korean bloggers with him though~ so perhaps his latest style can be found around the shops or used online.
On the Sonokong website you can buy a small assortment of extra accessories for your dolls like traditional miniature fans, hair pins, shoes, pottery and bedding! The mini fans are especially nice ♥ One really fun thing I found while searching around on Korean Naver blogs was that the girls that collect Youn-ji dolls often bought these amazing kits for making traditional Korean furniture to display with them!! You have to build them yourself, but the final result is really beautiful!
♥ One of the shops is HERE, super tempted to make a bitty dresser. ♥
Another MUST to display with Youn-Ji Dolls is miniature Korean food! Making miniatures seems to be a popular hobby here in Korea, I always see amazing little dishes~ if you are looking for something plastic and more cost effective a lot of bloggers used the “Korea Tour” collection from Re-ment (Japan) or the cheaper line of Korea food miniatures by Orcara (China).
The Re-ment collection is a bit harder to find, but the Orcara set can be found easily for just a few dollars on ebay!
Where to buy Youn-Ji Dolls 연지인형
*** In Korea (Offline) ***
Sadly I still have not located any real amazing doll stores here, if you know of any please let me know. She is a bit expensive, so I am not sure how often she could be spotted at the smaller toy shops around the neighborhood~ but I do plan on checking “Toy Alley” next time I am in Dongdaemun. The only place I have spotted her being sold personally was Toys R us here in Seoul, they had about 4 styles at the time. You can find a listing of all the Toys R us Korea locations by visiting HERE
*** Online ***
This is the official site for Youn-ji + some of her accessories, however they do not say they take international orders and it does require you to sign up. You may need to use a Korean shopping service (google, lots of people here offering this for a small % of the transaction) to place the order for you.
After some hunting I managed to find them for sale on a Korean doll website called pretty doll (they sell lots of other awesome dolls too!). They WILL take international orders with paypal, although the site is a little bit confusing~ on the left purple menu look for the “연지” section and you can click about 5 different categories for her, they have a bunch. On the top they have an “English Worldwide” customer button which translates the item titles, and to the right they have a button explaining that they will take international shipping with paypal only. Since I have not placed an order I can not say what the entire process is, but if you do please share in the comments! Its pretty rare to see a shop here offer to take overseas orders, let alone paypal.
We all know this site of course~ sometimes they will have one or two Youn-ji dolls for sale, but they are usually marked up a bit. If the seller is in Korea you can always try asking if they can get a certain one in stock that you want.
Do you like collecting dolls? What about Korean hanbok dolls? Do you have any Youn-ji dolls? If you could have any for your collection, which dolls would you pick?! Comment below!