Colonial Korea’s Short Haired Rebels
Tuesday, January 30, 2018 - 6:00pm to Tuesday, January 30, 2018 - 8:00pm
Colonial Korea’s Short Haired Rebels


The PSU Center for Japanese Studies with co-sponsors Institute for Asian Studies, Department of History, and Department of World Languages and Literature presents

Colonial Korea’s Short Haired Rebels 

Actresses, Cross-dressers, Gisaeng, and the Refashioning of Femininity in 1920s Korea

Danny Kim

PSU Korean Studies Faculty


January 30, 2018 | 6pm

Smith Memorial Student Union Room 238

Free and Open to the Public


In colonial Korea during the 1920s, the public was faced with a shocking new phenomenon: women with short hair. The emergence of this new hairstyle became a spectacle, and one of the first women to adopt short hair, Kang Hyang-nan, garnered such interest that the Dong-a ilbo, one of the period’s major newspapers, interviewed her about the practice in 1922. Yet short hair and the bob cut quickly went from an oddity to a powerful symbol, associated with clashing ideas about modernity, women’s roles, and education. 

This talk focuses on the figure of Kang Hyang-nan, a former gisaeng (female entertainer/courtesan) who cross-dressed as a man to attend school and later became an actress. Her career and the debates surrounding her life illustrate how women in colonial Korea could use a fashion “statement” to make a broader statement on the nature of femininity under the rapid social changes of 1920s Korea.