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The Kim Sisters at a table in Reno
The Kim Sisters
Complete Transcript (.pdf)
The Kim sisters, composed of three sisters, Sook-ja, Ai-ja, and Mia, came from Korea to Las Vegas in February, 1959. Their first contract in American was to perform at the Thunderbird Hotel for four weeks as part of the China Doll Revue, the main showroom program. This engagement led them to a successful career. Their popularity was at its height at the end of the 1960s, when they performed throughout the United States and Europe. Sook-ja Kim is the oldest of the Kim Sisters. After her sister Ai-ja died in 1987, Sook-ja teamed up with her two brothers and continued to perform until 1989. Now semi-retired from show business, with occasional performances in Korea, she is working as a real estate agent. In this interview, she talked about her childhood, her career, and the family she has built since coming to America.
She was born in 1941 in Seoul, Korea, as the third child of seven in a musical family. Her father was a conductor, and her mother, a popular singer. After the Korean War, her mother arranged to send the Kim Sisters to America. When they came to Las Vegas, there were virtually no Koreans in the area. They depended on each other to take care of themselves. Some of the difficulties they had to adjust to in America were language, food, and cultural differences. Over the span of almost forty years in America, Sook-ja became acculturated without discarding her ethnic identity or family priorities. Her life-long guiding principle has been to combine certain American values while continuing to keep cherished Korean ethnic values.
Through their performances, the Kim Sisters informed the audience about Koreans and their culture. As the oldest of the group, Sook-ja was entrusted the care of her sisters, and later her brothers, the Kim Brothers. Once she settled in Las Vegas, she brought more than 40 members of her extended family, contributing to the growth of the Las Vegas Korean community.