Jean Paik

Wolf Humanities Center Undergraduate Fellow

20232024 Forum on Revolution

Jean Paik


CAS, 2024

Jean Paik is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences from Valencia, California. She is studying English with a concentration in 18th and 19th century literature. Her research interests include the intersections of race, gender, and labor, labor movements, and 18th century travel writing. For her work in the Wolf Humanities Fellowship and the English thesis program, Jean is interested in examining the literary works of late 20th-century Korean women factory workers in free trade zones, and the materials that were written about them. At Penn, Jean is involved in the Asian American Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board and 34th Street Magazine. She enjoys reading, trying new desserts, and going to the beach in her free time.

Embodied Resistance: Collectivizing the Body in the Literatures of Korean Women Factory Workers

Export manufacturing zones were sites of transnational capital, labor, and resistance in late twentieth-century South Korea. Established in the 1970s-80s, free export zones primarily employed women workers who were subject to highly precarious and exploitative labor conditions. My project examines written materials produced by Korean women factory workers in the form of the public appeal letter alongside poetry from the tradition of minjung literature ("minjung" referring to the people, or the masses) to explore how the body is rendered and represented. The materials I examine collectivize the bodies of Korean women workers precisely in the representation of these bodies in their most stripped, fragmented terms. The texts' attention to the individual body is conversely expansive in its impact, powerfully articulating the shared conditions of Korean workers in the context of the export manufacturing zone.