Dr. Cheehyung Harrison Kim, Dialectics of Labor: Working in Postwar North Korea

  • Abstract: In search of national unity and bureaucratic order in the decade following the Korean War, the North Korean state turned to labor. Even more than coercion or violence, work was crucial to state control. Industrial labor was both mode of production and mode of governance, characterized by repetitive work, mass mobilization, labor heroes, and the insistence on convergence between living and working. At the same time, workers challenged and reconfigured state power to accommodate their circumstances—coming late to work, switching jobs, and fighting with bosses, as well as following approved paths to secure their livelihood, resolve conflict, and find happiness.