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Korea’s industrial capitalism, which expanded aggressively in the era of President Park Jung-hee’s dictatorship, employed slogans of development and (economic) growth. In this period, to support their families who remained in their hometowns, women without proper education came up to the cities from the countryside to become Shik-mo, an in-house maid, or Gong-soon-e, a female factory worker. In the 1970s, at a flourishing company called Dong-il Textile, female laborers earned only 70 won, less than half the wage of male laborers. At the same time, the wider society looked down on them by calling them Gong-soon-e. Among 1,300 employees, 1000 of them were female and the remaining 300 male employees were in all the positions of management/administration. In this male-centered factory, female employees organized the first Korean labor union headed by a woman. After establishment of the union, the masculine triangle of the police, the company, and a pre-existing company-formed union left a historical record of suppression of the female laborer’s union; this situation was later named the ‘Shit-basket Affair’ in Sunday Seoul, the most popular yellow journal at that time.
Reconstructing the circumstances in Dong-il Textile Company through first-person narration and testimonies, We Are Not Defeated creates the historical moment of a female laborer’s union. In doing so, the film prompts us to think about the human condition, sisterhood, and laborer’s consciousness which emerged spontaneously and was vigorously sustained, even as they were showered by buckets of shit. A must-see Korean documentary about female laborers. (Kim Sun-ah)
Lee Hye-ranLee Hye-ran
LEE has been making documentaries since 1996, and has been a pioneer in a style of documentary filmmaking that captures the identities and struggles of female laborers in Korean society. Her best known works are Parallel Line (2000) and We are Not Defeated (2006). We are Not Defeated was the recipient of the Documentary Okrang Film Award at SIWFF, the Independent Film First Prize at the Seoul Independent Film Festival, and has also been screened at numerous film festivals including the Busan International Film Festival, the Festival International de Films de Femmes in France, and the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival in Argentina. She participated in the production of Troublers (2015).