"no country for the new woman": Rethinking gender and cultural nationalism in colonial Korea through Kim Myǒngsun

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Kim Myǒngsun (1896-1951) experienced a difficult life despite her career, which seemed alluring to the eyes of aspiring young women in colonial Korea: she was a novelist, a poet, a translator, an actress, and a journalist during a time when only a handful of women could have professions in the cultural sector. Kim's personal and public life was filled with numerous challenges; she constantly faced criticism for her "vanity," "licentiousness," and "lack of literary talent," attributes that were often associated with New Women like Kim. Criticism put forward by male writers and literary critics was especially harsh, and their fictional and journalistic accounts of Kim largely contributed to the creation of her negative image: she was branded as a "fallen woman" for she was neither a "good mother" nor a "chaste woman." Male writers' malicious attacks on the New Women were a manifestation of masculinity that was rearranged in the process of colonialism: the hierarchy between the colony and the metropole was renegotiated in the cultural domain where male social elites reclaimed their patriarchy at the expense of female subjectivity. This article attempts to uncover how gender, sexuality, and nationhood were mutually constituted in the New Woman discourse in colonial Korea by examining essays and columns in a magazine, Sin yǒsǒng (The New Woman), and juxtaposing literary representation and self-representation of the New Woman. It analyzes fictional narratives by Kim Myǒngsun and Kim Tongin (1900-1951), examining conflicting views on the New Woman wherein the politics of gender and sexuality intersect with cultural nationalism and colonialism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-427
Number of pages29
JournalActa Koreana
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • General Arts and Humanities


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