Late Industrialization and Women's Work in Urban South Korea: An Ethnographic Study of Upper-Middle-Class Families

  • Kim M
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LATE INDUSTRIALIZATION IN SOUTH KOREA has affected gender relationships and class relationships, both of which can be observed in urban families. This article focuses on the nature of women's work and family structure in upper- middle-class families, which most urban studies of developing countries have ignored. It contrasts existing models of female labor-force participation with the voices of upper-middle-class housewives who engage in various labor activities to enhance the social status of the family. The article argues that the "economic miracle" of South Korea is closely related to the patriarchal family ideology of upper-middle-class families, and that families function as "shock absorbers" in the rapid advance of late-industrial capitalism. Not only men's productive work, but also women's reproductive work, is highly valued, by the state and by the society in general, for its contribution to rapid economic development. Late industrialization is a complex process that provides both liberating and oppressive contexts for gender practices and creates contradictory interpretations of gender roles. [South Korea, late industrialization, gender,class, urban families]

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  • Myung-Hye Kim

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