Gang-gang-sul-lae is a Korean folk dance that is exclusively performed by women of the community. It is also known as Ganggangsuwollae (강강수월래 in Hangeul/ 强羌水越來 in Hanja, which are Traditional Chinese Characters. It is a traditional dance where group of women hold hands in a circle, spinning around and singing.
My mother, who I collected this data from said: “When I learned the history of Gang-gang-sul-lae in elementary school, I was told that admiral Yi Sun-sin (이순신) , during the Japanese invasion of Korea in the 16th Century, devised a plan to dress all the women into men’s clothing and dance around in circles. Then the Japanese soliders thought that admiral Yi had a big army and retreated in intimidation.”
I remember first seeing Gang-gang-sul-lae in the field of my public school when celebrating Chuseok (추석/ Mid-Autumn Festival). It was during 2005, which was the same year when I started attending elementary school. I remember my mother and I dressing up in Hanbok (한복/ Traditional Korean Attire) and having a valuable cultural experience provided by the local community. This traditional dance has significance to my mother and many other Korean women as they have partaken in Gang-gang-sul-lae themselves. Because my mother now resides in Los Angeles and has not performed the Gang-gang-sul-lae for over a decade, singing and spinning around the living room while holding her son’s hand apparently brought back a “joyous memory”.
Despite being well known through its role it allegedly served in the 1592-1598 Japanese invasions of Korea, Gang-gang-sul-lae’s role in modern day society serves as a symbol of Korean culture and ‘heritage’. It is rare to see youth to play though performing the dance, it can always be seen at cultural events, which are especially prevalent during traditional holidays such as the first full moon of the lunar calendar and the mid-autumn festival.