Labour movement

70s Women Workers

Among the key worker struggles during the Yushin Regime of Park Chung Hee were those waged by women at the Cheonggye, Dongil, and YH Unions. After watching the play 70 Women Workers by the Arts Collective for a New Era, we spent a weekend meeting up with its three protagonists. Our first day, we got a tour of Pyounghwa Market (the primary textile district in Korea) by one of its then-organizers Shin Soon Ae. Our second day, we sat down at a Gwanghwamun café to talk with Lee Cheong Gak and Choi Soon Young presidents of Dongil and YH Union during its most intense and fierceest struggles.


The World When Women Led Labor Unions in South Korea

by Kristin Pak


Recent Articles by ISC Korea 


A Reflection on Community Education

by Erica Sweett

Coming to Korea 1.5 years ago, I could never have imagined how much this country and its people could teach me. For me, education is about discovery. It is a shared knowledge that opens your mind to worlds beyond your own. Instead of passively learning about the culture and history of where we are living, we become active members of retelling and reshaping the future.
In March I was invited to see a play about three women who worked in the Korean garment factories during the 1970s. The women read their stories alongside actors who reenacted the scenes. Choking back tears, they spoke of the inhumane treatment, humiliation and violence they endured in the factories.

The Korea these women spoke of was not only of a different time, but of a completely different world. Their stories allowed me to see, from a personal perspective, the struggles many Koreans face.


Reigniting the Spark

by Ana Traynin

These days, most high-school-age Korean girls put on school uniforms and double over studying from morning to night, at the same rate as their male peers. As a visiting native English teacher in Korean high school, I’ve heard the word “hell” used more than once to describe these three years. However much they may hate it, for young people this remains the path to a kind of status denied to thousands of poor, rural girls growing up under Park Chung-hee’s military dicatorship of the 1960s and 1970s. Much of Korea’s economic progress, or the so-called “Miracle of the Han River” was carried out on the backs of workers like Shin Soon Ae of Cheongyye Union, Lee Cheong Gak at Dongil Textiles and Choi Soon Young at YH Trading Company.


“Enforce the labor code! We are not machines!”

by Stephanie Park

Anyone with a passing knowledge of Korea’s labor movement knows the name of Jeon Tae Il, the iconic young male worker who self-immolated in protest of working conditions in Korean factories during the 1970s, as well as the words he shouted that fateful day in Seoul’s Pyeonghwa Market. I first learned about Jeon Tae Il through a college class on Korean cinematography, where we watched A Single Spark, a film that dramatizes his life and the events that led him to such drastic action.


Being the Change We Want to See

By Taryn Assaf

“There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’”­- David Foster Wallace


Official Statement on the Conclusion of the Korean Rail Strike

Posted January 2nd, 16:00, here

Message to the International Labor Movement Concerning the KRWU Strike

Dear brothers and sisters in the international labor movement,

I write to you to announce the conclusion of the Korean Railway Workers’ Union’s (KRWU’s) 23-day long strike against rail privatization and to thank you wholeheartedly for your support and solidarity.

In the early morning of 30 December, the KRWU reached an agreement with ruling and opposition national assembly members to establish a ‘Subcommittee on the Development of the Rail Industry’ under the National Assembly Committee on Land, Infrastructure and Transport. This subcommittee will have a multi-stakeholder advisory board in which the KRWU will participate.


Solidarity for South Korean Rail Workers- Video

Solidarity for the Korean rail strike has poured in from dozens of countries worldwide. The fight against privatization is not a isolated fight. It affects us all. Only through solidarity action can we truly build a global movement. This video showcases solidarity action in San Fransisco. From the video, “…the police have declared an all out war on the KCTU and the KRWU. And when the police are moblilized in the thousands to surround the headquarters of the KCTU, it is indeed an all out class war. And we have a stake in this war. We stand with the Korean working class against the repressive government of Park Geun-Hye. ” This is a great video to begin understanding the massive scale strikes against privatization in Korea at the moment. It also covers a bit of the history of the Korean labor movement, and really highlights the truly repressive nature of the Korean police and government.  Please take the 15 minutes to watch.


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