[2010-#4] Labor Politics of Suicide in Korea

Labor Politics of Suicide in Korea:
The Changing Power Balance between Workers and Employers

Suk-Man Hwang
Department of Sociology
Changwon National University
Changwon, 641-773
South Korea


This paper deals with a series of Korean workers’ suicides in 2003. Suicides by Korean workers have not been rare and often been considered a weapon of the weak; however, suicides by organized workers in large companies, with good pay and high job security in 2003 were unprecedented. This paper uses a historical approach to identify structural variables that had influenced these suicides and to examine how they are related to the deaths; it shows how suicides of workers have gained their meaning and role in labor politics in Korean society. Then, the paper identifies major changes in industrial relations in Korea that affected the increase of suicides. Finally, it attempts to show how these changes had influenced to the worker suicides in 2003.