Legal geographies of labour and postdemocracy: Reinforcing non-standard work in South Korea

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Abstract

This paper engages the literature on the legal geographies of labour and postdemocracy in order to examine the role of law in limiting the labour rights of non-standard workers. To do so, it analyses the effects of civil suits for obstruction of business against workers and trade union activists in South Korea. First embraced by liberal administrations as an alternative to authoritarian forms of labour control, civil suits for obstruction of business have become a common feature of labour struggles since 2002 and have led to millions of dollars in damage claims and provisional seizure of assets being applied against workers for engaging in collective action. We argue that by treating many ordinary trade union practices as “threats of force” that obstruct business and are thus liable for compensation, the law has been an essential component in the creation of a postdemocratic mode of labour control: one in which many fundamental labour rights are officially recognised, unlike under authoritarian regimes, but undermined in practice by narrowly limiting workers’ ability to pursue lawful collective action.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)200-214
Number of pages15
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Volume43
Issue number2
Early online date16 Oct 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Oct 2017

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