PhotoPhoto Essay
Our "Kids" Are Not for KidsBall-jointed dolls, a part of grown-ups' lives
Hong Hae-jin Reporter  |
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승인 2004.11.30  00:00:00
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SINCE INU got married two months ago, he meets his wife more often and spends time with her. It is a pity that they cannot live together for an irreconcilable reason but still, they are satisfied. Today he meets his in-laws with his mother. They are going to have dinner and have a nice time together. It seems to be an ordinary story of a normal family, which does not deserve any attention. However, just one thing is very particular: this is not a life story of a human, but a doll.

Today's dolls are not what they used to be. In ancient times, dolls were first invented as objects of incantation or for religious meaning. Of course, as early as 1305 B.C., they also were toys for children, especially girls. It was not until the 19th century began, that some people started to have interests in dolls as a serious hobby, or a professional field and specially designed them for enthusiasts. At first, it was regarded as an abnormal hobby for grown-ups, but nowadays it is an accepted phenomenon to share life with dolls.

Recently people are fascinated about new types of dolls like Blythe and Bratz, but the ball-jointed doll is the most popular. As its name suggests it has spherical joints at the arms, legs and also at the back. This structure enables it to move naturally like a human body and thus, most closely resembles a real human being. It was first designed as an art by Hans Bellmer, a post-realism German artist, and produced for market by Volks Inc. Tenshinosumika in Japan, but people from all over the world are willing to own it now.

One special feature of a ball-jointed doll is that you can customize it to suit your taste. Upon a whim, the owners can change the eyeballs and wig to various colors and different forms. The costumes are specially designed by professional artists along with the make-up. Some even go as far as to get plastic surgery done on their dolls to make their faces more beautiful. "This is the biggest attraction because you cannot find in other dolls. You cannot grow bored with it, since you can change its appearance everyday," says Yi Eun-seol (Fresh. Area of Social Sci.). "This way, owners can be satisfied by changing their kids, though each of them has his own taste."


▲ △▷Dolls are


customized as their owners prefer.                                                                         Their eyecolors, wigs                                                 and costumes are chosen                                         by their owners, and so is                                          the make-up, or specially                                        cared by professional artists.








▼ The spherical joints of the "ball-jointed doll" are able to move without any limitation of direction. So, the doll's movements are similar to humans'.




The owners' love for their dolls often exceeds expectations. They have their own expressions regarding dolls and how to address them and to show affection. For instance, they call it "kid" or by its own name and refer to it as a "he" or a "she." A doll is "adopted" and "sent to the others in the community," not bought and sold. "It is a sort of boundary you have to cross over by learning with enthusiasm and showing your positive attitude towards this culture," explains Choi Kowoo-ree (Soph., Univ. of Seoul). "When you do not have enough sincerity to become a member of this society, doll owners do not readily share important information with you."

The reason for such fondness is the same for every owner of ball-jointed dolls. "It is simply because they are beautiful," says Kang Hee-joo (Jr., Dept. of Mass Comm.), an owner of a ball-jointed doll. She remembers the day she felt the urge to own it for the first time: "I fell in love with it at first sight in a pavilion. Later I could not but look for my own kid."

▲ Digital cameras and Internet are one of the main reasons of this doll-trend. People enjoy taking pictures to show their kids to others and share information on Internet.

















◀ All items are manufactured by diverse compaines and professionals. These items cost no less than those of humans' and look just like them, too.




Some people fail to understand this love for dolls, and one reason is the costs. Dolls are extremely expensive, because they are hand-made. That is why each has its own peculiarity and differs from other doll. Such uniqueness makes the price go much higher, sometimes up to more than one million won. Yet, doll lovers do not hesitate to spend a lot of money on them. Their attitudes towards dolls are also not acceptable to others. They always take their "kids" wherever they go, affectionately caressing and speaking to them as they would to a living person. So, it is often described as an odd tenacity and unusual attachment.

Some psychologists describe doll-lovers' hobby as an expression of dissatisfaction of love in their childhood. Some regard this case as a Peter Pan-syndrome; when grown-ups retreat to child-like mentality because they find it difficult to adapt to realities of adult society. However Kim Man-kwon, a psychologist, explains it can be a misunderstanding of modern society's atmosphere. "When considering today's trend full of individual PRs and diverse viewpoints regarding individuality, it could be accepted as another means of self-expression," says Kim. "If it does not affect their lives in a negative way, it should be regarded as a normal hobby."

▲ △▽Some enthusiasts started to make dolls by themselves. It is not that simple to design the most beautiful model of ball-jointed doll. There are professional institutions and teachers who teach how to make it.

Despite all these controversies, the love for dolls keeps growing. Yet, it is hard to define the future of this "doll-love," and it may be an overreach to presume a simple trend to become a big cultural phenomenon, and to predict its continuous growth. However, Kim Young Kwang, the president of Korea Ball-jointed Doll Association, claims that this trend will last much longer than we expect. He says, "At this point when modern art is in decline, the ball-jointed doll will rise as new synthetic art, a moving sculpture that includes knowledge from all kinds of art. Not as a toy but as a real hobby or a profession of art, it is expected to become a valuable cultural icon that will provide chances for people to participate positively." It will depend on how people accept and

cope with it from now on, whether such love for dolls is just a crazy mania or a worthy enthusiasm. Dolls do not speak for themselves but we, their creators, should speak for the value of their existence, which will make them worthy in turn.


















Photographed with the help of Customhouse and Bimong Academy

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All items are manufactured by diverse compaines and professionals. These items cost no less than those of humans' and look just like them, too.

All items are manufactured by diverse compaines and professionals. These items cost no less than those of humans' and look just like them, too.