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Title: 'Hands up' : female call centre workers' labour, protest and health in the Seoul Digital Industrial Complex, Korea
Author: Kim, Kwanwook
ISNI:       0000 0004 6351 2767
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2017
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This paper is based on research into the lived experience of female call centre workers in South Korea. A call centre has become a representative field-site to investigate the suffering of female workers in Korea, having been likened to the ‘sweatshop of the 20th century’ because of its panopticon-like supervision, regimentation of time, repetitive work. In reality, the current lives of female call handlers in Seoul Digital Industrial Complex seems not to improve compared to the past lives of the factory girls of the textile industry in the 1970s and 80s at the same industrial area, called Guro Industrial Complex. It can be inferred particularly from the perspectives of ‘chemical employeeship’ (i.e. workers depending on chemicals including caffeine and cigarette to work longer and harder for securing one’s job) and ‘cultural gravity’ (i.e. workers following the cultural force operating to demand their body be docile and industrious) In the context of Korean call centre industry, I have sought the worker’s reality of labour, protest and health through focusing on three different types of ‘hands up.’ The first ‘hands up’ describes that call handlers have to put one’s hands up to go to the toilet, which is humiliating to them and represents the unfair working condition. Secondly, the use of ‘hands up’ is a gesture of defiance of the first call centre labour union in Korea. I explored how hard it was physically and mentally to establish the collective resistance, but also observed the call handlers’ shrunken bodies or daunted mind could stretch out through the opportunity created by the labour union. Lastly, I found female call handlers’ ‘hands up’ gesture as a self-healing exercise, called ‘mompyeogi undong’ meaning ‘stretching body exercise.’ This exercise helped the participants improve their health physically and mentally as well as elevating self-esteem.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available