This article draws on ethnographic research to elucidate ways in which young women's care labor is appropriated by the state as “free labor” in South Korea. Building upon John Krinsky's notion of free labor as state-orchestrated exploitation of public sector workers and Kyounghee Kim's research on gendered care labor, this article examines the gendered experience of school social workers who are certified at a lower level than professional social workers, and are hired, laid off, and rehired by the state-sponsored Education Welfare Priority Project. It traces recent unionization efforts by school social workers and attempts to explain why these workers do not recognize care work as a source of exploitation. Finally, the author presents analytical tools to better understand the intersection of state employment, exploitation, and gendered care labor as an emerging neoliberal form of labor.
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