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A feminist political economy of cultural work: Unpacking the gender, labour, and precarity of South Korean television writers

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Author: Kim, Hoyoung
This dissertation explores the working lives and labour activism of South Korean television writers, who are predominantly women, from a feminist political economy perspective. The dissertation provides a deepened and expanded understanding of cultural work, focusing on its content and gendered nature, as well as on the labour process and the precarity that workers experience in South Korean cultural industries. The key research questions guiding this study are: 1) Why are women the overwhelming majority of writers in the South Korean television industry? 2) What does the labour of Korean television writers entail, and what forms of precarity do writers face in their working lives? Finally, 3) how do some Korean television writers struggle collectively against the problematic aspects of their precarious working conditions? The primary research consists of in-depth interviews conducted with 91 research participants in South Korea from June 2018 to August 2019. In particular, the dissertation develops several conceptual tools for exploring cultural work in cultural industries, including the labour of cultural conception and communicative labour. It also unpacks the gendered and precarious nature of cultural work, and the concrete dimensions of the exploitation of a cultural workforce, including piecework, invisibility of workers, and a dependence on emotional labour. Through the lens of the intersection between capitalism and patriarchy, this dissertation shows how separation, discrimination, and hierarchy impact the exploitation of labour and production processes. Moreover, it suggests that working creatively, autonomously, and equitably should be recognized as a basic labour right. Finally, the dissertation develops the concept of feminization as a valuable tool for understanding labour and precarity in contemporary capitalism by examining a unique example of the feminization of the writing workforce in the Korean television industry.
274 pages.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Brophy, Enda
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