Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 353–373 | Cite as

In the Shadow of Working Men: Gendered Labor and Migrant Rights in South Korea

  • Hae Yeon ChooEmail author


Based on ethnographic research in South Korea, this article investigates the gendered production of migrant rights under the global regime of temporary migration by examining two groups of Filipina women: factory workers and hostesses at American military camptown clubs. Emphasizing gendered labor processes and symbolic politics, this article offers an analytical framework to interrogate the mechanisms through which a discrepancy of rights is generated at the intersection of workplace organization and civil society mobilization. I identify two distinct labor regimes for migrant women that were shaped in the shadow of working men. Migrant women in the factories labored in the company of working men on the shop floor, which enabled them to form a co-ethnic migrant community and utilize the male-centered bonding between workers and employers. In contrast, migrant hostesses were isolated and experienced gendered stigma under the paternalistic rule of employers. Divergent forms of civil society mobilization in South Korea sustained these regimes: Migrant factory workers received recognition as workers without attention to gender-specific concerns while hostesses were construed as women victims in need of protection. Thus, Filipina factory workers were able to exercise greater labor rights by sharing the dignity of workers as a basis for their rights claims from which hostesses were excluded.


Migration Labor Gender Social movement South Korea 



I thank the special issue editors Rachel Rinaldo and Manisha Desai, the editor David Smilde and four anonymous reviewers of Qualitative Sociology, as well as Nancy Abelmann, Jennifer Carlson, Cynthia Cranford, Jennifer Chun, Jessica Cobb, Nicole Constable, Myra Marx Ferree, Phil Goodman, Chaitanya Lakkimsetti, Pei-Chia Lan, and Ching Kwan Lee, who offered valuable comments on earlier versions of this article. I also thank all of the participants in this study who kindly included me as part of their daily lives. This project received financial support from the Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship and the National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant in Sociology.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Toronto MississaugaMississaugaCanada

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