When Camera Encountered ‘Chosŏn Beauties’
Kisaeng Photographs, Tourism, and Postcards from the 1880s to Colonial-Period Korea
This chapter contributes to an under-researched topic: kisaeng 妓生 (Korean female entertainers or courtesans) in early photographs of Korea associated with tourism. It examines the photographic representation of kisaeng from the perspectives of American travelers and Japanese colonial agents respectively. The second section focuses on the period between the 1880s and 1910 when Korea began to open up to the world. It explores the earliest photographic records of kisaeng through the lens of American travelers, set parallel to descriptions from their travel writings. The third section, set during the colonial period (1910‑45), identifies a repertoire of visual practices associated with nation-building politics that celebrated kisaeng as idealized and civilized ‘Chosŏn Beauties’, or icons of traditional Korean culture, through the medium of photographic postcards initiated by the Japanese colonizers. It argues that such practices, relying on resources drawn from Korean entertainment culture, attempted to reshape Korea’s national identity and create an imagery of a ‘feminized’ Korea under Japanese colonial rule.