Hyunok Lee’s Year in Reflection

In our latest Year in Reflection, we spoke to Hyunok Lee who teaches at Yonsei University, South Korea.

In 2022, what workers’ struggle in Asia that has particularly impressed you?

There were various care workers rallies throughout the year to demand the improvement of working conditions. The care workers’ rally in 2022 was organized by the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers Union on Oct 22. One of the key agendas was opposition to the privatization of the social services.

What is one labor issue that is not given enough attention?

‘Labor issue’ tends to be associated with paid labor. I am interested in unpaid labor. I have engaged in the discussion on unpaid care labor at home and the recent socialization of care including the formation of care labor market in South Korea.

I found that women’s voluntary labor in the community has been an important part of the social care and I try to conceptualize it in the context of socialization of care.

Is there any interesting insight that you would like to share?

Over the last few decades, a series of innovative policies on building community and promoting social economy have been implemented in South Korea to address problems of low economic growth, an ageing population, and polarisation of the society due to neoliberal restructuring.

While Korean women played pivotal roles in these innovative community-building projects, the sociopolitical connotations of their voluntary work have rarely been discussed. Women’s work in the social and solidarity economy needs to be discussed more critically.

What is one book you have read this year?

Fortunes of Feminisms by Nancy Fraser.

It was published in 2013. I revisited this book and found her insights were very helpful to conceptualize the emancipation movement in the gendered political economic changes in South Korea.