25th year of toy library in Korea1st Asian toy library conference2nd Asian toy library conference3rd Asian toy library conference3rd Asian conference reportsSecond Report: The 3rd Asia Toy Library ConferenceAsia Link Report 2019

Freda Kim writes

This year in Korea we have been celebrating 25 years of toy libraries. In 1982, when we first started to prepare Korea’s first toy library the word was unknown and special education for pre-school children was not organized or financed by any official body.

These 25 years have witnessed the most extraordinary growth. This growth has been made possible by the great efforts of religious and other volunteer bodies, and during the last 10 years by support from the local and central government, causing an explosion of activity in special education and toy libraries. In 1983, when the doors of the first lekotek were opened it was a combined program for the full-time education of pre-school disabled children and a toy library, that from the beginning was open to all children. When we started to plan our celebrations for a “25th birthday” we found that we had grown up and, in some ways, we had grown apart. We find in 2007 that there are pre-school facilities for disabled children, licensed by the ministry of education and fully financed by the local education authorities.

There are integrated, mainstreaming opportunities in many kindergartens; and toy libraries in welfare centres, and many other converted spaces – such as underground storage space in the Metro, a renovated church in the centre of an open market, rented space over a pizza outlet and so on. Most of these toy libraries get some help from local government in the form of space, provision of toys or help with one paid worker. These toy libraries are big in area and are open every day, often having weekend programs for families. Many have retained the name lekotek and all include all children from birth up to 2nd or 3rd grade or until they outgrow the provisions the toy library can offer. What still remains totally voluntary, and with no funding, is the Korea Toy Library Association (KTLA).

The KTLA had its 25th birthday celebrations on 27th October, 2007 in a wonderful new Children’s Centre built and financed by one local government. The centre has every kind of play opportunity one can think of including a delightful lekotek.

The new president (since Jan. 2007) Sister Genoveve writes:

The celebration of the 25th anniversary of toy libraries in Korea (1982 to 2007) was held in Seoul on 27th October 2007. Plaques of appreciation were presented to 30 volunteers, entertainers and those who gave financial donations. The history book Footsteps of 25 years of Toy Libraries in Korea was present to Freda Kim for her pioneering work in spreading toy libraries in Korea. We were honoured to have Dr. Noriko Minejima, from Japan, with us for our celebrations. She represented and brought a message from the president of the Japanese National Council of Toy Libraries. She also brought us a wonderful gift of handmade toys. Professor Soh Yong Sook gave a comprehensive presentation about the work of toy libraries among children and their families. Our celebrations were attended and enjoyed by about 150 participants including former and present toy librarians, lawmakers and public officials. A group of local children entertained us with songs including the World Play Day Song. This event was a reminder that it is time for KTLA to become an official, registered body with the local government, in order to continue to serve the community.

Mr. Ui Jung Kang writes:

Celebrating the 25 years of lekotek’s work for pre-school disabled children with Huimang School and the publication of Dr. Freda Kim ‘ s autobiography.

This celebration took place on 2nd December 2007 in the Anglican Cathedral in the centre of Seoul City. Huimang School is the successor to the work that Dr. Freda Kim started in September of 1982 by making handmade toys to create Korea’s first toy library and playrooms for pre-school disabled children. Huimang School presented her with the book, What an amazing history of farming in a wild field – Recollecting the story of 25 years.  And Seoul Diocese of the Anglican Church published her autobiography.

The event was attended by 150 people including head teachers, priests, nuns, church members and friends including such dignitaries as Bishop Francis Pak, Primate of the Anglican Church of Korea, Bishop Simon Kim, President of the Anglican University and Dr. John Lee, Minister of Unification, who gave the congratulatory address. The evening concluded with a buffet dinner for everyone, a cake cutting ceremony and a toast to the health and happiness of Dr. Freda Kim and the future prosperous continued development of Huimang School. Kang Ui Jung, Director of Huimang School.

Teresa Lee, church member and volunteer writes:

About 150 people gathered on the 2nd December recollecting the untiring allegiance of Dr. Freda Kim to the cause of the special education of pre-school children in Korea at the 25th Anniversary of the founding of Huimang School. As mentioned in the congratulatory address made by the Minister of Unification, with the strong will and hot passion with which she had given up nothing, Dr. Kim could sow seeds on this land, vacant for the education of these children, and pushed forward, where nobody else dared. The Primate of the Anglican Church of Korea stressed that all of us owed much to her and the participants agreed and heartily applauded her again and again.

Dr. Kim spoke thankfully and humbly saying that God had given her work to which she could dedicate herself. Enchanted by her good will in creating and managing numerous works, we volunteers had wished to be with her even though little help was forthcoming for her efforts.

That evening event was wonderful and will be beautifully remembered long by us all because the place was filled with deep love, and respect and thanks for our Freda Kim, ” A living witness in special education for children in Korea. “

Freda Kim continues:

For me this has been a time of amazing warmth, thankfulness, appreciation and culmination. And, of course, great enjoyment in the glamour of the events themselves and a wonderful sense of satisfaction in the knowledge that there is a structure now to press ahead with the leadership of Sister Geneveve Shin in the KTLA and Mr. Ui Jung Kang as the Principal of Huimang School. When I sat alone making toys from junk in 1982 I only knew that I was compelled to make a toy library. I had never seen one; I had only heard the word. However, as most toy librarians know, there really is little that a pile of junk and infinite imagination, mixed with overflowing enthusiasm, cannot do! This is the story of many early toy libraries around the world.

Two things remain that I really want to say about the place we are at in toy libraries in Korea.

The first is about the spirit of volunteerism. I hope toy libraries will always use volunteers. Volunteers are special people, with special values. They are willing to give something to the community, using their time and talents to enjoy helping others without expecting or asking for rewards for themselves.

The second thing is that people who work in toy libraries both paid and volunteers, deserve and need to be trained. It is much easier to build a building and fill it with toys than it is to become a good toy librarian. The KTLA is an association for toy libraries and people who work in toy libraries, and as such, is not a government supported agency. We are lucky to have seen a sudden increase in the number of toy libraries, but unless we meet this with a systematic training course we will be in danger of losing our focus, and understanding of what a toy library can contribute to the growth, stability and education of our children.

Now that we have celebrated our history we move into new waters in 2008 beginning the task of preparing, funding and carrying out our Training Scheme for Toy Librarians.

Date: May 27th & 28th 2004
Venue: Hanwool House, Seoul, Korea
Countries participated: Australia, India, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia and Korea
Theme: “The Toy Library and Family”.

Even though each country has different cultural background and language, they have a common concern about “children’s play”. Cultural benefits are increasing through the growth of the standard of living. However, play facilities for kids are severely lacking.

This conference was prompted and influenced by this present social situation and gave an opportunity to re-think the necessity for play and safe toys for the advancement of kids and to define the direction and task of Asian Toy Libraries.

Toy Libraries, often started for disabled children, have spread to all children and their families and carry on a very important role in society. Although Korea is very close to Japan, I was unaware that over the past twenty years, 500 Toy Libraries have been opened in our neighbour country. This steady growth and activity of Toy Libraries in Japan was attributed to the regular hard work and very active participation of many volunteers. Another notable feature is that in Taiwan, where there is a high percentage of inter-racial marriages, Toy Libraries provide play facilities for the children of these marriages and a social resource support system for the parents in these families. Also in Taiwan, Toy Libraries play an important part in the lives of disabled children who live in country areas where social and culturalsupport is lacking.

Listening to stories from other Asian countries gave me a chance to think again about the Korean Toy Library. In Korea, the first Toy Library was found in September 1982 at St. Peter’s education centre in Hang-dong, Guro-gu, Seoul. It was established for disabled infants and toddlers. Since then, the Korean Toy Library Association was organized and became a national network. To help this work president Freda Kim donated 3,000 used toys to Gok-gyo Day Care Centre Lekotek. Gok-gyo Day Care Centre manages various and active programs. For instance, the Zero to Three programme with disabled children, general children and their parents. Saturday Family Play with disabled children, their own sisters and brothers and parents, toy lending for various toy sharing with community children; Toy Making – parents make toys for their own children. Now, government supported toy libraries are spreading rapidly throughout Korea.

The 1st Asian Toy Library Conference was an opportunity to think about the task and future direction of the Korean Toy Libraries again. Furthermore, it was the time to know the role of the Toy Library in the reality of Korean society. In order to realize such a concrete role and vision we appreciate the continued support of the government. I hope that the toy library will be an important organization which gives positive influence for families and communities.

Written by
Hyo-Jung Kim

Seoul, Korea


This comment was written by a teacher at Gok-gyo Day Care Centre, one of the biggest day care centres (about 600 children) on the outskirts of Seoul. This teacher was having her first experience of a Toy Library Conference.

The 2nd Asian Toy Library Conference was hosted by Malaysia and held from May 25 th – 27 th 2007 in Kuala Lumpur. With the theme of “Toy Libraries – Reach Out”, the three day conference created the awareness of the role of toy libraries and the importance of play. There was a gathering of almost 140 delegates from all over Malaysia including many from Singapore, Japan, Korea and Brunei.

Dr Freda Kim, Immediate Past President of the ITLA and Founder of World Play Day presented the keynote address. Plenary sessions included country reports and presentations on the various types of toy libraries. Workshops on Puppetry, Music & Movement, Traditional Games and Soft Toy Making were reported to be very practical and stimulating.

Delegates also had the opportunity to participate in study visits to different children’s play facilities. The conference ended with the celebration of World Play Day on May 27 th.
This event was a follow-up from the 1 st Asian Toy Library Conference which was held in Seoul, South Korea in 2004. As the conference created so much awareness on the benefits of toy libraries, many delegates are now enthusiastically looking forward to the next conference which will be hosted by Singapore in the year 2010.

The Metropolitan YMCA Singapore (MYMCA) has provided Toy Library services since October 1993 with the support, commitment and hard work from our core volunteers. Metropolitan YMCA Mobile Toy Library service was launched in 1999, through which volunteers bring toys and conduct music therapy programmes in special needs schools.

Metropolitan YMCA Singapore has been working closely with the Toy Library Association of Singapore (TLAS) since its inception in 2009. This year, as requested by TLAS, MYMCA will host the conference as well as organize the World Play Day on 28 May 2010.

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Our Happy Time: The 3rd Asia Toy Library Conference

Lee Rim Lee, Hope School in Korea
When looking down on a night airplane, Singapore had sparkling lights. On thefollowing day, I walked down a well-shaded street with trees, taking in fresh air and headed to YMCA Metropolitan hotel where the conference will be held. I was attending the 3rd Asian Toy library conference as a Korean presenter. I was so excited that my heart fluttered.

The Opening started with a talk from the representative of YMCA. Then Dr. Freda Kim, the founder of the first Korean toy library and World Play Day, changed the tense and awkward atmosphere with a humorous greetings.

Next, there was a following talk by Seo Young Sook, the professor of KoreaSookmyung Women’s university’s child welfare department. The talk lasted for an hour which talked about the history and educational environment of Korean toy library and my presentation was to be followed on the second day of the conference.When professor Seo Young Sook’s talk finished, there was a little tea time break. It was a very sweet time as that of hot milk tea and coffee.

Even though I’m very outgoing and sociable, it was still a little difficult for me to approach other representatives since I was the youngest participant. However, during half an hour teatime, I was able to have delightful conversations with participants from Malaysia who seated on the same table and with other participants while lining up for a cup of tea. Having lunch together during lunch time, I had more time to get to know them.

After the Lunch break, we enjoyed exhibition beside the room where we hadconference. The representatives of Japan brought textbooks and teaching aids made by hand and they were the most outstanding. Their subtle sensitivity and needlework done with sweat made us marveled and it was a refreshing shock for me. The books made with rags and even the spots used in sentences were made with keen efforts. Bookmarkers and post cards made by Malaysian children were amazing as well.

Workshop was followed next and I attended Music therapy workshop which Iapplied for when I was in Korea. We were all paying close attention to the professor as she sing a song play the guitar. The workshop started with “little star” which is known to people all over the world. I also learned other songs that I can sing for kids hugging them in my arms. After the workshop, some made an advice to the professor to make the lesson more active and appropriate for primary and intermediate school students. I thought so too. The songs were good for a year old baby, but it won’t be appropriate to use in reality. But her voice and the sound of the guitar really touched us.

There was a long-waited tea time after the workshop. During the teatime session, I talked with Yoori, a friend from Malaysia. She is a mother of a child who is in similar age with me, and work as a volunteer in Metropolitan Hotel. We were saying that there are so many things we would like to do in this age and encouraged each other. We also exchanged our e-mail address. It was very exciting for me to have a conversation in English which is a second language for both of us.

After dinner session, we planned to go to ‘Night Safari’ tour riding a tram. It’s the only night safari in the world, so I was very excited. After having dinner, touring night safari, we came back to hotel at 9 o’clock. I briefly prepared for next day’s presentation and fell asleep.

Now it’s the third day in Singapore and the second day of conference. Theconference began with a talk from Dr. Freda Kim. After she talks, we headed to’Towner garden school.’ There were two choices and I chose to visit Towner garden school. Magan, a kind step guided us to a special school for disabled ones. To describe the school in a word, it was beautiful. As we entered the school, we could see huge windows, pastel colored buildings, trees, and the philosophical words on the wall. This is the philosophy “Every individual is capable of learning and has potential that can and should be developed.” They all amazed me. Good environment for disabled ones and the principal’s educational philosophy also moved us. Salha Soo, the principal of the school took us around the whole school. When we entered the hall, we could see some volunteers teaching students. Teachers dressed like animals and played games with students, sometimes sitting on the floor, and sometimes lying down, all the activities were very comfortable.

I thought that sometimes it was teachers who made students narrow minded.Volunteers also prepared some toys for the students. It was a ‘Mobile toy library.’ Playing with new toys, they didn’t know how time passed by, and sometimes they danced to the music played. When I watched them playing, one kid came up to me, held my hand and started dancing. I also danced with them and played with them using toys. I was so happy that I wished time stopped. After saying farewell to them, we started looking around the school again, and went to intermediate and high school. We also saw some students having one to one lessons and some sporting equipment in a class. When walking through a hallway, we also saw two guys cleaning after cooking class. When they saw a camera on my hand, they smiled and waved at me. Since Towner garden school is Singapore’s good school for disabled ones and I visited for myself, it still remains in my memory. I thought “this is how Singapore’s school for disabled ones operates”.

We briefly listened to the principal as he explained the school. When she finished explanation, I asked her how people in Singapore view children with disabilities. She said that a few years ago it wasn’t very ideal, but it’s getting much better nowadays.

The school was situated in a clean place where we can hardly see garbage on the street. I thought all the teachers and students were very happy. I came back to hotel with my heart full of warmth.

National Report Briefing started right away. When Japan finished their report, now it was my turn. I was very nervous and excited thinking that I can address to them about Korea. After taking the platform, I asked “good afternoon everyone!” and started my presentation. After the presentation, people encouraged me by clapping.

When coming down from the platform, I felt light on my feet. Later, there werereports from Malaysia and Singapore. It was very meaningful to hear from other countries.

May 28th, the last day was ‘World PlayDday’ ceremony. We left the hotel and arrived at Singapore flyer. The curtain rose with a talk given by Dr. Freda Kim. She encouraged us to have fun at the ceremony and play the Korea classic musical instruments ‘Kkwaenggwari.’ Some volunteers from nearby middle schools came and prepared for some games that all the kids can play, and also some gifts. Everyone could enjoy participating the ceremony. From toddlers to adults, we were all having a good time in World Play Day ceremony. The ceremony lasted from 9:30 to 3 o’ clock and I could feel how much they prepared for the ceremony and all the games. I thought that ‘World Play Day’ can recall our memories of childhood in this busy world. I thought people of all ages can enjoy it.

I would like to finish my word with a short sentence. ‘There is work that is work and there is play that is play there is play that is work there is work that is play and in only one of this lies happiness.

‘After graduating from university, I started working in ‘Hope school.’ As Dr. Freda Kim and my principal Gang had suggested, I attended this conference as a Korean representative. I’ll never forget this memory for all my life. This is how the conference ended.


The 3rd Asian Toy Library Conference was held in Singapore on the 26th and 27th May at the Metropolitan YMCA Singapore, who was also the main organiser for this conference. Delegates who attended this conference were mainly from Malaysia, Japan, Korea, Brunei and Singapore.

The two days conference was built around the theme of “Toy Library and Community Building” its objective was to advocate “play” among typical children and those with special needs together with their families and the communities.

28th May was set aside for the celebration of World Play Day for the third consequent year running in Singapore! This year, it was celebrated at the Singapore Flyer.

The delegates and the participants had a great time being on “top of the world” while some had fun playing at the games and toys.

It was an honour to have Dr Freda Kim, Founder of World Play Day to be present with us throughout the Conference and especially to inaugurate the World Play Day with the sound of the “Gong” ! She led us with the World Play Day Song As all the delegates, participants, volunteers and staff of MYMCA joined in one resounding voice singing “play, play, play”.

Very happily and naturally. The children were there with their families and friends. It was amazing to see children of different nationalities playing together and were socialized very well with one another as “play” is a common thing to do for them.

The World Play Day event ended in the late afternoons as more and more children joined in “play” from even amongst the public. “Play” is fun and “play” is contagious as anyone could have witnessed this happening that eventful day!

Asia Report 2019