They are Not Machines: Korean Women Workers and Their Fight for Democratic Trade Unionism in the 1970s

Ashgate, 2003 - 214 頁
The multi-faceted tensions created in developing countries between a burgeoning popular desire for democracy and the harsh imperatives of modernisation and industrialisation are nowhere more evident than in the so-called 'Asian tiger' nations. Of all those nascent economies, South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s stands pre-eminent for the magnitude and speed of its development and the extraordinarily oppressive and inhumane conditions that its labour force, mainly women and young girls, were compelled to endure. The author of this book was one of those young girls who suffered in the warren of sweat-shop garment factories in the slums of central Seoul. With little or no support from male co-workers, and despite their political naivety and the traditionally subordinate status of Korean females, the women textile and garment workers confronted the ruling authority at all levels. The author's mother was one of their leaders, and her eldest brother sacrificed his life for their cause. Despite appalling state-directed violence, betrayal by erstwhile colleagues, the chicanery and mendacity of employers' cooperatives and countless other setbacks, these uneducated and overworked women finally succeeded in forming the first fully democratic trade union in the history of Korea. Based on compelling personal accounts this is the first published account of the women's struggle, and it throws much light on the process of modernisation and industrialisation in Korea and beyond.

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關於作者 (2003)

Chun Soonok, born in 1954, is related to two major figures within the history of the labour movement in South Korea. Her brother, Chun Tae-il, poured petrol over himself in November 1970, sacrificing his life to draw attention to the inhumane treatment of Korea's garment workers. His last words were 'They are not machines'. This deed galvanised grass-roots opposition to the officially-sanctioned organization of labour and led to a new order in Korean industrial relations. Her mother, Yi So-sun, now in her 70s, has dedicated her life to the cause of human rights and democratic trade unionism and continues to play a leading role in representing the interests of workers. Chun Soonok began work in a sweat-shop garment factory in Seoul at the age of 16. Dismissed from several jobs for her trade union activities, she became involved in running a wide variety of welfare projects for workers in need. From the late 1980s she lectured on union affairs and women's issues in countries around the world. In 1989 she came to the UK to embark on a programme of study that culminated in the award of a PhD in 2001. She has been Visiting Fellow at the Cardiff University and is now research professor at Sungkonghoe University, Seoul, South Korea.