Chinese Labor in a Korean Factory: Class, Ethnicity, and Productivity on the Shop Floor in Globalizing China

Chinese Labor in a Korean Factory: Class, Ethnicity, and Productivity on the Shop Floor in Globalizing China

Jaesok Kim

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 080478454X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Chinese Labor in a Korean Factorydraws on fieldwork in a multinational corporation (MNC) in Qingdao, China, and delves deep into the power dynamics at play between Korean management, Chinese migrant workers, local-level Chinese government officials, and Chinese local gangs. Anthropologist Jaesok Kim examines how governments, to attract MNCs, relinquish parts of their legal rights over these entities, while MNCs also give up portions of their rights as proxies of global capitalism by complying with local government guidelines to ensure infrastructure and cheap labor. This ethnography demonstrates how a particular MNC struggled with the pressure to be increasingly profitable while negotiating the clash of Korean and Chinese cultures, traditions, and classes on the factory floor of a garment corporation.

Chinese Labor in a Korean Factory pays particular attention to common features of post-socialist countries. By analyzing the contentious collaboration between foreign management, factory workers, government officials, and gangs, this study contributes not only to the research on the politics of resistance but also to how global and local forces interact in concrete and surprising ways.

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various parts of a corporation, as well as the basic and fundamental division between labor and management. As a powerful boundary-building mechanism operating at the level of everyday life, they reflect and maintain the power relations among the factions and 40 spat i a l di v isions a n d t h e l i v i ng e n v iron m e n t individuals in a corporation (Ho 2009: 73–85). They act on the living experiences of employees and make them physically experience the subtle and pervasive

Korean-Chinese consciousness because they are part of the Korean nation, which inherited this ethic. They believed that the Confucian virtues contributed to the successful migration of KoreanChinese to China and helped them establish their own autonomous area in northeast China.7 In the same context, the management considered that the reversed ethnic power relationship in the factory was a consequence of Koreans’ superior morality. The Korean managers contended that there was nothing strange

was the unlikeliness of an opportunity of being promoted beyond her low-level office worker position. This she attributed to a glass ceiling against ethnic minorities: “If I had continued working in the factory,” she recalled, “I might have ended my career as a petty female accountant.” n at ion a l i t y, e t h n ic i t y, a n d s t at us 87 Joonja was fortunate to see an advertisement on the bulletin board of a nearby Korean-Chinese employment agency. It was about an opening for

korean management in a chinese workshop 133 season, workers on the shop floor were required to put in a lot of overtime to fulfill the high volume of orders. During the low-order season, however, overtime work became unusual because the factory received fewer orders. The buyers’ way of placing orders caused the large difference between the two seasons. Because garments are a highly seasonal product, buyers tend to place their orders before a season begins. For the same reason, they require the

ex-trainees might have tried to establish and maintain close relationships with the Korean managers and show off their Korean to other workers. The workers in the cutting and the finishing sections, however, viewed such behavior as unnecessary flattery or, even worse, “flirting.” They suspected that the ex-trainees tried to get something extra from the managers by using their shallow knowledge of Korean. At first, the trainee program increased the non-sewing-section workers’ discontent with

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