Selling Smiles: Emotional Labor and Labor-Management Relations in 1930s Colonial Korean Department Stores

Jinseok Oh, Howard Kahm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Department stores were the most luxurious retail institutions in colonial Korea in terms of their architecture, interior design, and product offerings. While Korean department stores closely resembled their Western and Japanese counterparts in form and function, the Korean department stores were unique for their position in developing retail practices and policies within a colonial context. Specifically, department stores hired young female workers to provide emotional labor to both customers and managers, which illustrated the transition from precapitalist to capitalist modes of emotional labor. Furthermore, the creation of a corporate culture and employee training programs that demanded a specific type of emotional labor resulted in various reactions from the employees, including complaints, criminal acts and violence, and the rise of class and political consciousness. Consequently, the evolution of labor-management relations in 1930s Korean department stores offers a gendered perspective on the economic and cultural aspects of Japanese control over life on the Korean peninsula, particularly through the bottom-up view of female department store workers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Korean Studies
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Mar 1

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)

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