Kang made her acting debut as a child actor in the 1970s. She acted in a number of low profile movies before making a breakthrough performance in the Im Kwon Taek directed 1986 movie, The Surrogate Woman for which she was honored with the Volpi Cup Best Actress award at the 1987 Venice International Film Festival and Best Actress Award at the Nantes International Film Festival. This was the first time a Korean actor has been given the award at the major film festival and at the time people did not even know that South Korea has a film industry. Two years later, she again took the limelight by winning the Best Actress award at the 16th Moscow International Film Festival for her role in the Im Kwon Taek directed 1989 Buddhist theme movie, Come, Come, Come Upward. In the film, Kang played the role of Sun Nyok, a young student who sought refuge in the monastery to escape from her troubled home and study to become a nun, and later fell in love with the person who tried to take away her modesty. Kang actually got her head shaved on-screen in the scene when Sun Nyog became a nun. In the same year, she was invited to serve as a juror in the Tokyo International Film Festival. In 1991 she was a member of the jury at the 17th Moscow International Film Festival.
In the 1990s, Kang appeared in a number of movies, the best known of which are Jang Sun-woo’s acclaimed Road to the Racetrack which won her the Chunsa Film Art Awards and Blue Dragon Film Awards for Best Actress, the box office hit movie titled That Woman, That Man by Kim Wooi Seok, Lee Myung Se’s film about adultery titled Their Last Love Affair and Im Sang Soo’s debut film Girls Night Out. By the end of the 90s, she had acted in 32 movies and after her movie Rainbow Trout was released in 1999 winning her thePaeksang Arts Awards for Best Actress, she cut down her work in movies and took to acting in TV drama. Kang was invited to be a juror in the 5th Pusan International Film Festival in the year 2000.
In 2001, Kang starred in the popular 150 episodes TV Drama aired on SBS TV titled Ladies of the Palace (Yeo-in Cheon-ha). The TV drama managed to garner her new visibility among mainstream audiences. Her performance in the TV Drama as Jung Nan Jung enabled her to win the Performance Award awarded by SBS TV. After a brief hiatus from the movie scene, she makes her comeback in the movie The Circle playing the role of an attorney. Kang has since then appeared in another movie titled Hanbando in 2006. In 2007, she make another foray into mainstream TV after a gap of six years by acting in the MBC TV Drama by the name of Moon Hee. In the TV Drama, she played the role of a woman who is forced to leave her child she had when she was only eighteen and thus the TV Drama seeks to portray the travails of the woman’s life.
She passed away on May 7th 2022 due to cardiac arrest at age 55