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Politicising digital labour through the politics of body

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2023

Changwook Kim
Handong Global University, Republic of Korea
Sangkyu Lee*
Kangwon National University, Republic of Korea
Sangkyu Lee, Department Journalism & Mass Communication, College of Social Sciences, Kangwon National University, 425, 1 Gangwondaehakgil, Chuncheon, Gangwon 24341, Republic of Korea. Email:


By analysing the recent emerging labour movement of Korean digital game workers, this article seeks to explore a relatively novel issue – the importance of a politics of body in digital labour. By employing Elaine Scarry’s concept of ‘language of agency’ and ‘analogical substantiation’, the article first investigates how digital game workers express their work experiences and their embodied pain by analysing the mechanism of ‘crunch’ practice. Second, by examining ‘karoshi (overwork to death)’ and a series of suicides of digital game workers in Korea, it seeks to explore the problem of death as the final form of bodily pain – focusing on how these death events led workers to develop new forms of politics and solidarity by organising labour unions. Finally, by analysing the newly established digital game worker unions’ opposition to the violation of worktime regulation as a ‘struggle for recognition’, this research illuminates how digital game workers not only acquire self-respect but also achieve social recognition for their bodies as working labour. By examining this labour union organisation practice in Korea, the study ultimately argues that recognising the politics of body in digital labour offers the possibility that an emerging social category of precariat can actually co-exist and connect with the existing social class of proletariat.

New aspects of digital labour
Copyright © The Author(s) 2021

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