Thursday, January 21, 2016

Carrying the Baby in the Podaegi

Baby strollers, baby strollers, baby strollers everywhere! Korean society is radically changing. Only in the past 10-11 years have baby strollers been in Korean department stores. Before that, Koreans took great pride in warming their babies with their bodies and staying in proxemics with their little one. In fact, there were many cultural expressions about the podaegi, the cloth wrap with long straps used for wrapping the baby, but those phrases have melted away as has the ubiquitous use of the podaegi. This is one thing I miss about the pre-World Cup Korea ... the closeness mothers had with their children, and seeing mothers everywhere walking proudly around with a baby or young child strapped securely behind them, as they themselves busied themselves with whatever.

Here are some pictures taken of a few people I've met with babies in podaegi. I started taking pictures after I realized that the podaegi was rapidly falling out of usage, so had to document yet another change in Korean society. Each of the people below use the podaegi for a different reason.

A grandmother with her grandbaby bobbing behind her as she worked a stall in the market. This picture was taken about 10 years ago, and when I saw the woman I realized that I hadn't seen a baby wrapped in a podaegi for some time, so asked her if I could take a picture. Her reason for her using the podaegi was two-fold: keep the baby secure and warm since it was winter and to keep the hands free while not having to grab for a crawling and disappearing child.

The wife of one of my colleagues taken six years ago. She loved using the podaegi because she could run outside of the apartment building quickly with her baby strapped on her back, carry refreshments for her two young sons and not have to worry about taking two trips or not having to juggle pushing a baby stroller and carry the refreshments. Basically, she found it easier to use in the local neighborhood or for quick trips. The stroller was used for long shopping trips where a lot of walking was done.

This lady had a really beautiful baby and a very unique way of tying her podaegi. She was at the foot of Dobongsan just walking around on a cool day with her baby happily bobbing on her back. She said the baby slept better when she, the mother, walked; the baby slept well with the mother's rhythmical movements! 

While the Korean culture is rapidly changing from its traditional roots, there are still people who value the old traditions, and there are people who can explain why the old traditions are the better choice than the modern fast-paced, little-interaction traditions replacing the old ways. 
According to Kwak Keum-joo, Professor of psychology Seoul National University: "Babies experience great anxiety after being born. Being wrapped in a podaegi, however, allows the babies to listen to their mothers' heartbeat and feel close to them. This helps them restore the emotional stability that they once had in their mothers' uterus". "‘Podaegi’ Korean baby sling: emerging as new generation mom’s must-have.


  1. Hi Cheryl,
    I have been looking for photos of traditional Korean Podaegi in use as I would like to add some photos to my article on the different versions of Podaegi and how they are tied. Would you be willing to let me use your photo, particularly the grandmother on a market stall. I would happily credit you and link it to your blog article too.
    Please let me know,

    1. Hi Jenni,
      You may absolutely use my photo. I wish we could ask the grandmother but I haven't seen her in years. Would you also post a link to your article here after you write it? I would love to read it, and then others of course could have access too!