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Women in the Sky: Gender and Labor in the Making of Modern Korea

Publisher: , 2021
Link to online store *

From the publisher’s website:

Women in the Sky examines Korean women factory workers’ century-long activism, from the 1920s to the present, with a focus on gender politics both in the labor movement and in the larger society. It highlights several key moments in colonial and postcolonial Korean history when factory women commanded the attention of the wider public, including the early-1930s rubber shoe workers’ general strike in Pyongyang, the early-1950s textile workers’ struggle in South Korea, the 1970s democratic union movement led by female factory workers, and women workers’ activism against neoliberal restructuring in recent decades.

Hwasook Nam asks why women workers in South Korea have been relegated to the periphery in activist and mainstream narratives despite a century of persistent militant struggle and indisputable contributions to the labor movement and successful democracy movement. Women in the Sky opens and closes with stories of high-altitude sit-ins—a phenomenon unique to South Korea—beginning with the rubber shoe worker Kang Churyong’s sit-in in 1931 and ending with numerous others in today’s South Korean labor movement, including that of Kim Jin-Sook.

In Women in the Sky, Nam seeks to understand and rectify the vast gap between the crucial roles women industrial workers played in the process of Korea’s modernization and their relative invisibility as key players in social and historical narratives. By using gender and class as analytical categories, Nam presents a comprehensive study and rethinking of the twentieth-century nation-building history of Korea through the lens of female industrial worker activism.

Hwasook Nam is Emeritus Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington. In addition to authoring numerous articles and book chapters, she is the author of Building Ships, Building a Nation and the coeditor of Beyond Death.



  1. A “Woman-in-the-Sky”: Female Workers on Strike in Colonial Pyongyang
  2. Factory Women in the Socialist Imagination: The 1930s
  3. Coping with Women Strikers: Nation, Class, and Gender under Colonial Rule
  4. Factory Women in the Postwar Settlement: The 1950s
  5. Women Workers in Industrializing Korea: From the 1960s to the 1980s
  6. Female Strikers in Recent Decades and the Politics of Memory

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* Where the book is available from a number of sources, they are prioritised as follows: (1) Amazon UK site, or for the more recent uploads (2) Amazon US site (3) Other sites in US or Europe, including second-hand outlets (4) LTI Korea, where the title is advertised as available from there (5) Onlines stores in Korea. Links to and Amazon UK site contain an affiliate code which, should you make a purchase, gives a small commission to LKL at no additional cost to you.