Peasant, Heiress, Writer, Whore: Korea’s Early Communist Women

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Friday, March 14th, 2014

Friday, March 14, 201412:00PM - 2:00PM208N, North House, Munk School of Global Affairs
1 Devonshire Place
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In the 1920s some of Korea’s most famous communists were young women. Political suppression and exile obliged them to be transnational and multi-lingual as they moved between colonial Korea, China, the United States and the Soviet Union. This talk examines the lives of two legendary early communists, Hŏ Chŏng-suk (the heiress) and Chu Se-juk (the peasant). Beautiful, intelligent and notorious, they appeared in the social pages as well as arrest notices of the daily newspapers in Seoul. These women bear comparison with socialist and communist women orators and leaders elsewhere in the world who in the early to mid-twentieth century embraced political life and party leadership. Far from being forgotten after their deaths, Korea’s early communist women continue to exercise a powerful hold upon the political imagination of divided Korea. These two friends, one of whom became a revered politician in North Korea while the other was caught in Stalin’s purges, encapsulate a classic narrative about leftist women long current in anti-communist South Korea: either as tragic victims of communism’s pathologies or ruthless purveyors of it. This talk argues for a re-evaluation of these early activists that allows us to see their complex feminist legacy.

Ruth Barraclough is senior lecturer in the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University. She is the author of Factory Girl Literature: Sexuality, Violence, and Representation in Industrializing Korea (2012). Her new project is a biographical history of Korea’s early communist women.


Lisa Qiu


Ruth Barraclough
Senior Lecturer, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

Jennifer Chun
Director, Centre for Studies of Korea

Main Sponsor

Centre for the Study of Korea


Asian Institute


Dr. David Chu Distinguished Leaders in Asia Pacific Studies


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