Building Ships, Building a Nation: Korea's Democratic Unionism Under Park Chung Hee

Building Ships, Building a Nation: Korea's Democratic Unionism Under Park Chung Hee

Paperback Korean Studies of the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies

By (author) Hwasook Bergquist Nam

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  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Format: Paperback | 336 pages
  • Dimensions: 150mm x 226mm x 25mm | 522g
  • Publication date: 30 April 2009
  • Publication City/Country: Washington
  • ISBN 10: 0295988991
  • ISBN 13: 9780295988993
  • Illustrations note: 14 illustrations, 2 maps

Product description

"Building Ships, Building a Nation" examines the rise and fall, during the rule of Park Chung Hee (1961-79), of the combative labor union at the Korea Shipbuilding and Engineering Corporation (KSEC), which was Korea's largest shipyard until Hyundai appeared on the scene in the early 1970s. Drawing on the union's extraordinary and extensive archive, Hwasook Nam focuses on the perceptions, attitudes, and discourses of the mostly male heavy-industry workers at the shipyard and on the historical and sociopolitical sources of their militancy. Inspired by legacies of labor activism from the colonial and immediate postcolonial periods, KSEC union workers fought for equality, dignity, and a voice for labor as they struggled to secure a living wage that would support families. The standard view of the South Korean labor movement sees little connection between the immediate postwar era and the period since the 1970s and largely denies positive legacies coming from the period of Japanese colonialism in Korea. Contrary to this conventional view, Nam charts the importance of these historical legacies and argues that the massive mobilization of workers in the postwar years, even though it ended in defeat, had a major impact on the labor movement in the following decades. Hwasook Nam is assistant professor of history and international studies at the University of Washington, where she holds the James B. Palais professorship in Korea studies.

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Author information

Hwasook Nam is assistant professor of history and international studies at the University of Washington, where she holds the James B. Palais professorship in Korea studies.

Review quote

"This is a superb work. In its appreciation of the dynamic character of the politics of labor at the plant level, it has no peer." - Andrew Gordon, Harvard University "This first-rate scholarly work throws light on a period of South Korea's labor history that has received little attention and has been largely misunderstood. Hwasook Nam demonstrates the historical linkages connecting South Korea's contemporary labor movement to the labor activism during the immediate postwar period as well as to the colonial legacy of labor mobilization." - Hagen Koo, University of Hawai'i