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No days off: South Korea’s first female barber can’t put the clippers down

If you ever find yourself in need of a haircut in South Korea, get one from one of the best. In Sae Eeyongwon, Seoul, you can find the first female Korean barber who has yet to set down her clippers.

A look into that South Korean Barber Life

Lee Duk-hoon is known as one of the oldest barbershops in town; it’s been open since 1975. If you ever get your haircut from her, you’ll notice that some of her tools may even be older than you! One of her straight razors–German Made, Steel blade–is almost 60 years old.

Lee Duk-hoon is now 88-years-old. She started cutting hair alongside her father when she was 19, before receiving her barber license in 1958.

This makes her license about 62-years-old.

South Korean Barber life
Photo Cred: Marcus Yam 文火 @yamphoto

When she first started cutting hair, many people did a double-take–they never imagined a woman working in a male-dominated industry. If a woman did earn money, she was usually a nanny, a bartender, or becoming a prostitute around the US military base.

Duk-hoon was unaware of this when she was younger. All she knew was her dad and his clippers.

In a time where women were believed to just stay at home, Lee Duk-hoon set that expectation aside. In fact, she hardly even thought about how she was the first female barber. Her priority was feeding her six siblings, her husband, and four children.

“It’s just so much fun,” stated Duk-hoon.

“Life is a machine that depends on who uses it. Look, I’m old but I still run great.”

Photo Cred: Marcus Yam 文火 @yamphoto

Duk-hoon has set quite a name for herself to the point where she would have several famous figures come by.

These famous figures include Doohan Kim (a Korean politician who was a known mob boss) and Joonyung Jung (the founder of Hyundai Group) as well as several central figures in the Korean Government.

“Nervous? Why would I be nervous?” said the female barber.

“They’re just customers. If they’re being picky, I just run them away”

Talk about a woman who isn’t afraid to stand up for herself.

Her regulars tend to vouch for her, each one harboring the same opinion: she’s just the best.

With her thorough cuts and great socialization skills, there’s no reason to even think about ditching her business. Since her salon’s opening, her prices have not gone down once in the past decade.

Her services start at about 10,000 won or $8 per cut and even lower for seniors and neighbors with cerebral palsy.

Despite business going down due to COVID-19, she is still satisfied with her clientele. As long as she could pay her bills and buy food, she was more than happy to keep the prices the same.

“I just need my regulars,” Lee said. “It’s not like I’ll be taking anything with me when I go.”

A humble life and even humbler beginnings, Lee Duk-hoon sets the bar for showing loyalty to her craft. Maybe it’s time for one of us to get a haircut from her too.