Home > Catalogue > Annali di Ca’ Foscari. Serie orientale > 59 | 2023 > Two Layers’ on New Women in Colonial Korea: The Case of Ch’oe Yŏngsuk (1905‑32)

Two Layers’ on New Women in Colonial Korea: The Case of Ch’oe Yŏngsuk (1905‑32)

Hyojin Lee    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia    



This paper aims to examine the life, experiences, and limitation of Ch’oe Yŏngsuk, a notable New Woman figure subjected to colonial restrictions in Korea during the early 20th century, with empirical resources, including newly discovered archives from the Swedish National Archive and the Sigtunastiftelsen archive. While Korean women were able to receive a modern education from the late 19th century, Ch’oe studied in Shanghai and then went to Sweden in 1926 to study sociology, becoming the first Korean woman to receive a bachelor’s degree in Economics. After her studies, she traveled extensively and met influential people. Despite her notable achievements, Ch’oe could not find a proper job and died in poverty a few months after her return. This paper seeks to shed light on her life during her stay in Sweden and her activities in the independence and feminist movements there. The relationship between her ‘failure’ after returning home and the constraints of the time, given spatially/periodically and gender-wise, will also be examined. It is also worth noting that her case is a symbolic example of the social constraints that elite women had to face at the time. Her contrasting activities and evaluations in Sweden and Korea show how constrained and suppressed a woman’s life is by the time and space in which it positions.

Aug. 29, 2023
May 17, 2023
April 7, 2023

Keywords: Elite women in Modern KoreaIndependence movementColonial subjectCh’oe Yŏngsuk (Choi Young-Sook)International studentKorean New WomenColonial Korea

Copyright: © 2023 Hyojin Lee. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.