Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 17, July 2008

Negotiating Space and Gender:
Female Street Entrepreneurs in Seoul[1]

Ayami Noritake
    Introduction: space and gender
  1. This article explores the lives of female street entrepreneurs in contemporary Seoul, South Korea (hereafter Korea). Korea has experienced rapid economic growth and urban development since the 1960s and is now the world's thirteenth largest economy by Gross Domestic Product (GDP).[2] Korea's program of economic development has been seen as an ideal model for developing countries. Seoul's recent urban development has also been promoted domestically and internationally as a 'successful' way to create a 'world city.'[3] However, this development has marginalised people engaged in street entrepreneurship, a large proportion of whom are women.[4] In addition to their exclusion from the conceptualisation and decision-making processes of urban development, scholarly attention to these subjects has also been minimal. At the same time the relationship between gender and urban development has been largely ignored.
  2. In this article I will examine how spatial, social and gender relations affect the emplacement and process of place making among female street entrepreneurs, and how they negotiate space and gender in everyday life. My research contributes to a better understanding of the interrelationship between spatial, social and gender relations for those in a disadvantaged social position in a newly developed country by highlighting these women's subjectivities and identities.[5] By doing so, I also aim to deconstruct the categorisation of these women as 'married female street vendors.'
  3. Street entrepreneurs are widely referred to as nojŏmsang (street vendors) in contemporary Korea. When used by others, the term brings negative connotations. Such people are considered 'illegal' and 'backward,' as they occupy public space without licence, do not pay sales tax, and are involved in 'traditional' forms of business.[6] In addition, the women involved in street vending are dominantly and exclusively conceived of as married women and mothers. However, I argue here that these women have diverse identities and conceive of themselves differently from these dominant images. To rethink their experiences and also to envisage alternative economic development for these women, it is necessary to highlight the dynamic and diverse dimensions of their sense of self.[7]
  4. This study focuses on a chaeraeshijang (traditional marketplace),[8] the Tongdaemun Shijang (Tongdaemun Market) in central Seoul. The chaeraeshijang are ideal sites for examining how changes in spatial, social and gender relations have affected women's lives. In the chaeraeshijang areas, a large number of people engage in street business. The Tongdaemun Shijang is located in central Seoul and is one of the most popular chaeraeshijang and fashion markets in Korea. In recent decades, the Tongdaemun Shijang has been dominated by women: consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs. During the 1960s to 1970s, many young unmarried women worked as low-paid labour in the garment-manufacturing sector which had previously thrived there. It is often argued that the Korean labour movement gained momentum through the unionisation and protests of garment workers, especially women, in the Tongdaemun Shijang.[9] At the same time, the area has attracted female merchants of garments and related goods, food services and street entrepreneurship. Small-scale garment manufacturers, mostly women, are dispersed around the marketplace. Menawhile, the area has witnessed repeated spatial changes through urban development, and this has precipitated struggles among female entrepreneurs, including street entrepreneurs, who have faced eviction.
  5. This study addresses two sets of questions. First, how have economic, spatial, social and gender relations affected the development of the Tongdaemun Shijang over recent decades? Second, how

    do female street entrepreneurs perceive this development? What needs, desires and identities do female street entrepreneurs articulate as the driving forces which attach them to this place? How do female street entrepreneurs negotiate changes caused by this development? I will argue that the economic and spatial processes that have formed and transformed the marketplace have been highly affected by social and gender relations, including factors such as age, origin, class, education and marriage. I also recognise that these women's needs, desires and identities are multiple, interrelated and changing over time. Further, female street entrepreneurs actively negotiate space and gender in diverse and creative ways, and this agency is a critical force in their understanding of their physical and social place. Importantly, the needs, desires and identities as well as the negotiations of these women have been formed through the spatial processes of the Tongdaemun Shijang and of the women's own lives.

    Figure 1. Tongdaemun Shijang, Seoul. Photograph taken by Ayami Noritake, October 2006.

  6. I probe the above questions, first, by a discussion of the gendered spatial and economic processes through which the Tongdaemun Shijang has developed, and then by an analysis of the subjectivities and identities of female street entrepreneurs who have become attached to the place. For this purpose, I draw on archival research, in-depth interviews and participant observation pursued during fieldwork in October 2006 and from April to August 2007.

    Time, space and gender in the Tongdaemun Shijang
  7. Here, I present a history of the Tongdaemun Shijang in terms of the macro-level interaction of spatial and social relations. A place is a product of a particular articulation of social relations rather than purely defined by its physical and administrative boundaries, and changes in spatial relations happen in close connection to social relations and vice versa. Places have their own history, and are ever-evolving. Any arrangement of social relations into a spatial form is temporary,[10] just as a social subject takes a temporary form of being. This conceptual framework leads to the understanding of the place called Tongdaemun Shijang as historically and socially constructed and always in a process of becoming. Spatial and gender specialisations and divisions of labour have promoted the development of the Tongdaemun Shijang as a centre of production and commerce of garment-related goods and of street businesses run predominantly by women.
  8. These specialisations and divisions of labour and the changes that accompany them, are intertwined with processes of national and regional economic and social development and the urban development of Seoul. Being inseparable from its location along the Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn Stream in central Seoul,[11] the Tongdaemun Shijang has developed approximately through four historical phases since the Korean War (1950–1953). The first phase was during and immediately after the war and lasted until the commencement of the national modern economic development.[12] War refugees, including those from North Korea, and other poor people settled along the stream creating a marketplace that flourished through the trade of groceries and goods coming from US military camps. A common view is that during this period, which lasted until the 1960s, commerce was dominated by men, and that women's participation in trade was limited due to the legacy of Confucian ideology on commerce and the gender divisions of labour.[13] However, in the 1950s there was already a noticeable presence of female street entrepreneurs in Seoul. Around the current marketplace area, many female street entrepreneurs sold groceries and ran small restaurants. In photographs of the 1950s, many women can be seen selling vegetables and other foodstuffs.[14] Peculiar to this area was the manufacturing and sale of garments. Clothes used by soldiers, among others, were remade and sold. However, since the use of the Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn Stream for waste disposal by these businesses and nearby residents resulted in the spread of contagious diseases, the area became subjected to local authority urban development controls. It was reshaped with the covering of the stream and several operations being undertaken in this period to clear slums and illegal businesses.

    Map 1. Seoul and its administrative districts. Drawn by Cartographic Services, RSPAS, The Australian National University © Cartography ANU 07–010.

  9. The second phase of the development of the Tongdaemun Shijang occurred during the 1960s and 1970s, when the economic policies of the Park Chung Hee Regime (1961–1979) established a solid base for Korea's later economic, social and spatial development. In the 1960s, in pursuit of export-oriented industrialisation, the government promoted labour-intensive light industry, especially textile and garment manufacturing.[15] In the 1970s, however, shifts in government policy led to an expansion of heavy and chemical industries and investment in capital-intensive sectors such as steel, machinery, shipbuilding and electronics. This focus on urban manufacturing caused large rural/urban income disparities and a massive rural–urban migration of people seeking waged work in urban industry. The regime also favoured the development of specific regions in which the top leaders had family, political and/or military connections. Seoul and its neighbouring regions were developed primarily for light and high-technology industries, and the southeastern region was targeted for heavy industry.[16] The Chŏlla provinces, on the other hand, were left largely underdeveloped because of the rivalry between their political leaders, most notably Kim Dae Jung (1998–2003), and the leaders from the Kyŏngsang provinces, notably Park Chung Hee and Chun Doo Hwan (1980–1988). Thus, many people from the Chŏlla provinces migrated to Seoul (Map 2).

    Map 2. South Korea and its provinces. Drawn by Cartographic Services, RSPAS, The Australian National University.

  10. The gender ideology of 'Korean style capitalism' led to the feminisation of the textile and garment sectors, the differentiation of women by age and marriage, and the concentration of female unskilled, low-paid workers in Seoul. Coinciding with the myth that women are nimble fingered and the notion that the labour cost of women, especially young unmarried women is low, women were mainly hired as unskilled, low-paid workers in labour-intensive sectors. In 1966, more than 80 percent of female manufacturing workers were in light industry. The textile and garment sectors were the most feminised. In 1970, 62.8 percent of all textile and garment workers were women. As enterprises in these sectors were concentrated in the Seoul region, women dominated the capital's manufacturing workforce. In 1970, 23.1 percent of female textile and garment workers were employed in Seoul. The textile and garment sector was the second largest employer of women in Seoul, following the personal and household services sector such as house helpers,[17] and followed by the retail trade sector.[18] This trend continued until the mid-1980s. At the same time, with the drastic increase in the number of job seekers, and since Seoul could not offer sufficient jobs, numerous people turned to self-employment.[19] Many of these people became engaged in micro and small enterprises as shopkeepers and street entrepreneurs at that time.
  11. During this period, the Tongdaemun Shijang and its vicinity became one of the centres of the capital industrialisation and modernisation project, while attracting small-scale garment manufacturers, traders and street entrepreneurs. The government-led urban development was aimed principally at economic growth, and cities were made the centre of light industry. The 1966 Development Plan, Seoul's first comprehensive effort in urban planning, developed the central area within the four main gates as a business district.[20] By that time, many refugees from North Korea and migrants from poorer regions had settled along the Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn Stream. However, until the mid-1980s, the building of economic infrastructure took priority over people's needs for housing.[21] The covering of the Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn Stream throughout the 1960s and 1970s accompanied by the construction of new motorways, contributed to the development of the Tongdaemun Shijang, while clearing away riverside dwellers. The marketplace attracted numerous small-scale garment workshops and related businesses. While the marketplace of this period came under the spotlight as a site of the exploitation of young unmarried women as unskilled cheap labour,[22] a myriad of street entrepreneurs, most of whom were married women, also gathered and transformed the place.
  12. In the third phase, from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s, while the textile and garment-manufacturing sector was less favoured by the government-led economic development, married female workers concentrated in the sector. In the mid-1980s, continuing the export-oriented industrialisation, the government shifted priority to technology-intensive industries, such as precision machinery, electronics and information technology. In the 1990s, the government focused on high-technology industries, such as microelectronics, chemicals and bioengineering. The textile and garment sector lost the government's support and, this allied with changes in the international garment industry, caused them to lose their competitive edge. While industrial sectors were diversified, women's concentration in the labour-intensive sectors persisted. Meanwhile, since the mid-1980s, married or middle-aged women have largely been mobilised into the manufacturing sector due to the labour shortage of unmarried women.[23] Thus, married women started to represent cheap labour and the textile and garment sector's labour in place of unmarried young women.
  13. At this time, the presence of the informal sector became more visible. According to Cho Hyoung, scholars noted the division of the Korean labour market into the formal sector and the informal sector only at the beginning of the 1980s, and the informal sector grew as the formal sector developed.[24] While young unmarried women's participation in the formal economy increased, a great number of married women were engaged in the informal sector. In 1980, over 60 percent of female workers in urban areas were in this sector.[25] While part of the informal sector involved middle-class (married) women (at least in the 1990s),[26] informal economic activities such as street business have also developed to provide low-cost commodities to the less affluent and to create income opportunities for those with fewer qualifications and limited access to capital.
  14. At the same time, Korea transformed into a consumer society, and Seoul became the nation's centre of commerce. Domestic demand for consumer goods and services soared because wages and savings significantly increased. With people's demand for higher living standards and new economic opportunities, the government promoted import liberalisation and the growth of the commerce and service sectors through the development of a 'modern' distribution network of chain stores like supermarkets and department stores. International events such as the 1988 Seoul Olympics and international tourism accelerated domestic and urban market development. Consumer goods' sales and service industries such as restaurants, hotels, insurance, health-related services, and entertainment grew rapidly.[27] Although Seoul's service sector was already active,[28] the nation's economic development strengthened the sector, and wholesalers of manufactured goods concentrated in Seoul.
  15. The gender division in the labour market in Seoul also changed. Women were increasingly employed in the commerce and service sector. In 1970, women comprised 28.5 percent of workers in the wholesale and retail sector. In 1991, they comprised 45.5 percent of the workforce in retail, and 60 percent of those working in restaurants and hotels. The garment-manufacturing sector was still the largest employer of women in Seoul, retail was the second, and the third was the restaurants/hotels sector.[29]
  16. This transformation of Korea into a consumer society and Seoul's urban development with a focus on economic growth brought about significant social and spatial differentiation. While numerous shops, supermarkets and department stores boomed, the divide between these new enterprises and the older chaeraeshijang and street businesses became clear. By the 1980s, the distinction between the north and south of the Han River (Han Gang)[30] also became clear in terms of class difference. Urban planning, still dominated by the central government, developed the area south of the Han River mainly as business and residential areas for the middle class. In contrast, the north, where the Tongdaemun Shijang is situated, maintained diverse use of land with many residential areas for the low-income and old residential areas for the middle class and upper middle class, and chaeraeshijang together with large business and commercial districts. After the 1987 democratisation movement, urban development began to focus on people's needs such as housing. However, the government housing development, in collaboration with the private sector, also in relation to hosting the Olympics, led to a rush to construct housing and other facilities, bringing a drastic rise in land prices and more frequent clean-up operations of illegal settlements and street entrepreneurs. The emphasis on economic growth in urban development was reinforced even after decentralisation in 1995. With the commencement of direct elections at local levels, newly elected mayors, governors and council members, with more power to develop their own areas, focused even more on economic growth.
  17. Within the Tongdaemun Shijang, gender concentration and social and spatial divides became definite. In the 1980s, many garment industries in the marketplace moved to cheaper production sites in China and other newly emerging Asian economies.[31] The Tongdaemun Shijang transformed from a site of both garment production and sales to one of predominantly sales. Thus the Tongdaemun Shijang became one of the biggest centres of the garment trade in Korea. Growing democratisation from the late 1980s also influenced the trend of consumption in casual clothes, and the marketplace benefited greatly from the demands of an increased number of female and young consumers.[32] New wholesale complexes prospered, mostly dealing with women's garments, and increasingly attracted married women as small-scale entrepreneurs, who were discouraged from entering waged employment, especially in the formal sector. In the 1990s, with the development of modern fashion retail complexes, the Tongdaemun Shijang became one of the biggest fashion markets in Asia attracting even more female entrepreneurs and consumers as well as foreign buyers. However, the marketplace started to be divided into new modern complexes with higher prices targeting wealthier and younger consumers, and the older arcades and buildings with lower prices targeting retailers, the less affluent, and older consumers.[33]
  18. Inextricably, the continuous struggles of street entrepreneurs as well as micro and small-scale merchants against clean-up operations and other redevelopment forces have contributed to the current form of the marketplace. Especially after Seoul's nomination as host of the 1988 Olympic Games in 1981, crackdowns against street entrepreneurs in central Seoul intensified. Street entrepreneurs united to form the Korean Street-Vendors Confederation (KSVC) to protest against crackdowns and for their right to earn a livelihood alongside the labour movement, the urban poor and evicted residents.[34] In contrast to other commercial districts in central Seoul, the chaeraeshijang have not been 'modernised' in the dominant way of replacing small shops and street stands with established and larger-scale shops.[35] The Tongdaemun Shijang remained open to many people for employment and consumption.
  19. In the fourth phase of the development of the Tongdaemun Shijang, after the 1997 Financial Crisis, the discrimination against women in the formal labour market was reinforced, and the number of street entrepreneurs as well as other informal workers appeared to increase. Korea's economy moved from the government-led model toward a more market-oriented one. When the government carried out financial and labour reforms, women were the first to lose their jobs. Although Korea's economy recovered quickly, women still had more difficulty in finding a job in the formal sector than men with the same qualifications.[36] Although there are no official figures to corroborate this, more people sought income opportunities in self-employment after the 1997 crisis, such as street entrepreneurship in the chaeraeshijang. The number of customers seeking cheaper commodities in the chaeraeshijang also increased.
  20. In particular, those unemployed and aged, especially women, have eagerly sought income opportunities, partly because of the lack of a social security system. The pension system established after the Korean War covered only civil servants, military officers and workers in private educational institutions.[37] Until the late 1980s, the successive authoritarian regimes prioritised economic growth over social security. In 1988, the national pension system covered firms with more than ten employees. By 1992 the coverage was extended to firms with more than five employees, and to the self-employed and workers in small firms in fishing and rural areas in 1995. The subscription rate of the total population was very low. It was 13.2 percent in 1990, and 18.6 percent in 1995.[38] As part of reforms undertaken after the 1997 Financial Crisis, the government made the national pension system compulsory for 'all workers' in 1999 by including the urban self-employed and workers in all types of small firms. This resulted in an increase of the subscription rate to 58.8 percent in 2000. However, this did not cover those who were older than sixty at the time of the enactment of the system. Many other people have not paid the subscription, either. The system allows people to hold membership without contribution due to specific reasons such as unemployment, low income and lack of fixed residence,[39] but people cannot receive a pension without contributing to the system. At the same time, full-time housewives who have not contributed to the system individually are provided with no more than a small sum (KW150,000 annually) on the basis of their husband's contribution to the system. As a result, low-income people and housewives tend to depend on their income rather than the national pension system.
  21. The move to a market-driven economy further accelerated the redevelopment of central Seoul and the displacement of street entrepreneurs. The Tongdaemun Shijang Area started to be redeveloped with the restoration of the Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn Stream in 2002. The local authority forced street entrepreneurs to relocate from the riverside to the Tongdaemun Stadium within the marketplace in 2004 despite the predicted drastic fall in their daily income, and again planned to relocate them in favour of developing the stadium into a public park (as of November 2007). It also supported the redevelopment of a few garment complexes into a larger fashion mall by evicting many female garment merchants and street entrepreneurs. These women are now fighting against the displacement in various ways.

    The time, space and gender of female street entrepreneurs
  22. Here I develop an alternative history of the Tongdaemun Shijang through the subjectivities of local female street entrepreneurs. By examining how their narratives articulate their needs, desires and identities, I explore the ways in which spatial and social relations construct, and are constructed by, these women's sense of self and place. These women reconfigure their subjectivities and identities and eventually their spatial and social relations through their agency. The women reproduce, negotiate, and resist spatial and social relations.
  23. Employing women's narratives as a powerful means to inquire into the ways in which women evaluate their belonging to place and their life trajectory, I highlight the unfixedness of self-identification and its diversity among women in their narratives. Following McNay, I conceive of the act of self-identification in the form of narration as an attempt 'to integrate permanence in time with its contrary, namely diversity, variability, discontinuity and instability.'[40] Women's narratives try to create coherent subjecthood across time and space and by bridging discontinuities and instabilities in their sense of self and place. This reflects the dynamism and unfixedness of self-formation. Women's narratives also mirror the diversity among them, revealing the coevalness and coexistence of multiple life trajectories.
  24. Here, narratives include individual interviews and informal talks which I conducted during my fieldwork. I interviewed eight female street entrepreneurs, of whom five are cited in this study. I asked them to tell me their life stories and to explain how and why they came to work in the Tongdaemun Shijang. I had informal talks also with other six female street entrepreneurs. These interlocutors roughly cluster into three cohorts: those in their sixties, those in their fifties, and those in their forties. Most of them were the main breadwinners of their families. The following table shows some details of the interlocutors who are cited in this paper.

    Table 1. Female street entrepreneurs cited in this article

    Name Age Marital Status Children Education Current occupation Period of engagement Monthly income (net)[41]
    Hwang Sookja late 60s married 2 sons and 3 daughters did not finish primary school second-hand bag stand over 30 years $US540–980 (KRW500,000–900,000)[42]
    Song Okhee mid-60s widow 6 sons did not finish primary school sandwich stand over 30 years $US760–870 (KRW700,000–800,000)
    Bae Minsook mid-50s married 2 daughters and 1 son finished junior secondary school food and juice stand over 25 years $US2,720–3,040 (KRW2,500,000–2,800,000)
    Shin Kyŏnghee mid-50s married a son and a daughter graduated from university sewing stand of home decorations and bedding items over 10 years $US2,170–2,720 (KRW2,000,000–2,500,000)
    Moon Meejŏng late 40s married a son and a daughter finished junior secondary school street restaurant over 20 years $US3,260–3,800 (KRW3,000,000–3,500,000)

  25. In my analysis here, I focus on three dimensions of these women's narratives. First, I focus on the differences between how the women are most commonly represented in dominant public discourses[43] and how they expressed their own needs, desires and identities. Their attachment to work and place is far more complicated than simple economic necessity. Second, I focus on the interrelatedness between their needs and desires to pursue several different life projects and the ways in which they each embody multiple identities. These women represented diverse needs, desires and identities both simultaneously and along their life courses. Third, I focus on the diversity and commonality among women, and explore possible sources of difference. For example, historical events differentiate the subjects in their formation, and interact with their personal life courses.
  26. The needs, desires and identities expressed in the women's narratives largely relate to five aspects of their lives: family and economic relations, spatial relations and physical mobility, personal abilities and desires, collective identity, and tensions in gender. Although I use this categorisation to provide an analytical framework, the women's narratives consistently showed the interrelatedness of these different aspects of life as 'webs of meaning within which humans act.'[44]

    Figure 2. A female street entrepreneur in the Tongdaemun Shijang. Photograph taken by Ayami Noritake, August 2007.

  27. Family and economic relations are differently highlighted in dominant public discourses and my interlocutors' narratives. Dominant public discourses largely conceive of women as daughters or mothers devoted to their families. A dominant discourse on the workers mobilised for national economic development in the 1960s and 1970s is that many young unmarried women migrated to cities, especially Seoul, to support their families' livelihoods including their brothers' education.[45] A recent dominant public discourse is that women are engaged in street entrepreneurship in order to support children's education. These discourses obscure the presence of different women like my interlocutors, some of whom migrated after marriage and others who were always based in Seoul, and motives for their migration and engagement in street entrepreneurship other than simple economic necessity.
  28. As in the public discourses, the need to support children's education is a reality that these women have been experiencing. When I asked them why they had started to work here, all of my interlocutors immediately recounted their need to support their household economy, and especially to pay for their children's education. Hwang Sookja, born in the early 1940s in Chŏllanam–do province, came to Seoul upon marriage at eighteen. She started a street business selling foodstuffs on the side of the Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn Stream in the mid-1960s when her husband failed in his business and the needs were increasing for their five children's education. At that time, only primary school education was compulsory and free.[46] The desire for children's higher education has long been strong in Korea as in other Confucian societies, and with national economic development employers demanded increasingly high levels of education. During the 1960s and 1970s, junior secondary school was considered the minimum education required to obtain a 'decent' job such as a white-collar job. In the 1980s, high school was the minimum qualification.[47] The desire of Koreans for children's higher education intensified in later decades to become a sort of national project.[48] In the late 1980s and early 1990s the number of students studying abroad also increased drastically.[49]
  29. Although family and economic relations were dominant features in my interlocutors' narratives, they articulated these relations quite differently from dominant public discourses. Until now, I have used the term 'education' in a blurred sense. Before the interviews, I had the impression that for many Korean parents it meant 'schooling,' rather than a more abstract ideal about 'education.' However, quite a few interlocutors appreciated aspects of the quality of life and self[50] their children have achieved rather than the length of schooling and the title or name of the school from which they graduated. Some conveyed their happiness in having helped their children gain experiences and discover new horizons, while others expressed their satisfaction with the fact that their children were living their lives eagerly and honestly.
  30. Several needs and desires addressed in these women's narratives are absent in public discourses. For example, many of my interlocutors, especially older women, recounted their struggle against discrimination. Bae Minsook expressed the view that her disabled husband felt freer in the Tongdaemun Shijang. Born in the early 1950s in a farmer's family in Kyŏngsangbuk–to, she did not like to work in agriculture. At sixteen, she left for Seoul to stay in an uncle's house and help his family business. She married a disabled man despite her parents' opposition. She started a street business in her neighbourhood to support her family life. Since her children reached school age—twenty years ago—she has been running a food stand in the Tongdaemun Shijang. She received help from neither her own parents nor her parents-in-law. She told me proudly that she has supported her own family economically. At the time of my fieldwork, her disabled husband sometimes minded her stand in her absence. In the Tongdaemun Shijang and other chaeraeshijang, a larger presence of disabled people, both visitors and street entrepreneurs, was observed than in other commercial places in Seoul.[51]
  31. Other desires and concerns expressed by my interlocutors include those related to their aging and to youth unemployment. Most of these women, who were in their fifties and sixties and whose children were grown up at the time of my interview, expressed their desire to be economically independent and autonomous. These aspects are invisible in dominant public discourses, but are dominant in these women's narratives. I will discuss these aspects later. Youth unemployment has long been an issue in public discourses in Korea.[52] The number of unemployed youth increased, especially with the 1997 Financial Crisis. This has led to a prolonged period of parental support for children and to a persistent concern about life security among older street entrepreneurs.
  32. My interlocutors' narratives prominently engaged in issues connected with spatial relations and physical mobility, which are largely invisible in public discourses. These issues were expressed as closely related to the women's corporeality and, in many cases, aging.
  33. Physical proximity to economic support from a family network and to income opportunities was important for their emplacement close to the marketplace. Many recounted their encounter with Seoul and the marketplace as an important phase of their married lives. None of them was engaged in street business before marriage. Most of them came to Seoul upon marriage, and associated the beginning of their lives in Seoul with their married lives. For Song Okhee, proximity to her brother and to the Tongdaemun Shijang was crucial. Born in the early 1940s in Chŏllabuk-to province, she lost her father when she was three. She lived with her grandmother, mother and elder brother. At ten, she started to work in an aunt's silk reeling workshop, staying in the aunt's house separated from her own family. She often attempted to escape from the hard life and was taken back to her own family home several years later. She got married at twenty-one and came to live in her family-in-law's house in a neighbourhood adjacent to the marketplace. She had six sons. Her family was evicted twice and relocated to a satellite city. After working in various kinds of informal work, she set up a snack stand in the marketplace in the early 1980s. Three years later, her husband died. She and her sons moved to a neighbourhood near the marketplace where her brother and his family lived, relying on his economic support and the advantageous income generation in the marketplace.
  34. Another popular discourse in the women's narratives was about eviction and moving. Most of those in their fifties and sixties represented their lives as processes of repeated relocation. Some were forced to move their businesses or they were evicted from the residential neighbourhood due to the area's redevelopment, and others moved to cheaper housing due to their families' economic situations. However, they remained attached to the marketplace area for their economic activities. Song Okhee, who was evicted twice and returned to the marketplace to start a snack stand, began her life story with the phrase, 'an eviction was happening, in order that they could build apartments....' She recounted the eviction as the starting point of her attachment to the marketplace.
  35. Female street entrepreneurs' experiences of crackdowns greatly affected their physical positions and feelings. Song Okhee recounted:

      With the crackdowns, they took things away, they took a parasol, a frying pan, and I cried. I often fell, even though I fell down, those people were merciless. I lived this way..., as I said just a while ago, I ran a business... in the Yŏngdŭngpo area..., in the Haebang–dong neighbourhood for three months and stopped, and came to the street here, joined in the confederation, and came to start this street business. I've run [the business] till now.

  36. After several crackdowns Song Okhee moved her stand to a safer place. She asserted that she preferred the current position despite a decrease in her income. Moreover, she attributed her moving to her old age by saying that it was too tiring for her to continue working at the pace she used to work at in her former location. She remarked that in the previous place she had too many customers and also had to compete with other women selling similar things next to her. The place was also too limited in space for her to even stand. Song Okhee's current stand is far from other street entrepreneurs dealing with the same foodstuffs, and spacious enough to seat several people. She asserted that this way of doing business suited her lifestyle better now that she was older and needed to earn only for herself.
  37. Many women represented their daily mobility and sense of place as changing due to aging, and the development of the area, and transportation and communication network. Most of my interlocutors who had been engaged in street business for more than twenty years stated that until ten or fifteen years ago they had moved their carts everyday between where they lived and their place of work so as to avoid crackdowns. At the time of my fieldwork, all my interlocutors left their carts at their workplace. Older women stressed that they were not strong enough to move their carts every day. They lived beyond walking distance from their workplace, and commuted mostly by subway.[53] A few of the younger cohorts used their own cars. Song Okhee was exceptional in using a bicycle. Bicycles were not popular in Seoul until Seoul City recently started to promote their use in order to ease heavy traffic congestion. Central Seoul is hilly, and the traffic conditions were not conducive to cycling. In addition, bicycles, like motorcycles, were considered a masculine form of transport.[54]

    Figure 3. A female street entrepreneur's stand. Photograph taken by Ayami Noritake, August 2007.

  38. Spatial changes, such as the emergence of larger buildings in the area, have also affected the location and mobility of street entrepreneurs. They are concentrated in front of the most popular buildings. Moreover, access to water has been important for many street entrepreneurs selling food. Most of those in their sixties remembered that in the 1960s and 1970s when water and sewerage were not yet fully available in the area, they had transported water from a long distance. However, since the late 1980s, when many new buildings were constructed, they have been able to obtain water from the public toilets within the nearby buildings. The buildings are private property, but their administrations have been generous enough to let street entrepreneurs use their facilities. With changes in communication systems, street entrepreneurs can now obtain other materials more easily. At the time of my fieldwork, all of my interlocutors used a mobile phone to order the delivery of business materials.
  39. With declines in physical mobility, street entrepreneurs' interpersonal interactions decreased. However, when crackdowns against them became severe in the late 1980s, street entrepreneurs began to unite, and to appreciate their collective identity as 'street vendors.' This collective identity will be discussed later.
  40. As motives for their engagement in the marketplace, my interlocutors' narratives highlight their personal abilities and desires, which are invisible in public discourses. Among those who came to Seoul upon marriage in the 1960s and 1970s, the discourse of searching for a new life was widely shared. Song Okhee emphasised that marriage had liberated her from a hard life in the countryside. She had made several attempts to leave her hard life without success, and considered marriage the only means of liberation. For her, married life in central Seoul was the basis for positive change.
  41. Another common theme in these women's narratives was their ability or inability to carry out economic activities. A dominant public discourse about the informal sector, including street entrepreneurship, is that people engage in such work because of the lack of opportunities for them in the formal economy. Among my interlocutors, just a few articulated this sentiment. Shin Kyŏnghee recounted her attachment to the marketplace as a consequence of events relating to her failure to become a school teacher after graduating from university. She gave her lacking ability as the reason for this failure. She was born in Seoul in the early 1950s. Her family moved a dozen times due to economic reasons. She finished university hoping to become a teacher, but failed in the exam and abandoned that dream. She worked from time to time sewing home decorations and bedding items at home. Getting married at thirty, she had a son and a daughter. Her husband worked in a company as an accounting manager. After five years staying at home, she set up a small restaurant but the business failed. Next she opened a fabric street shop within the Tongdaemun Shijang. However, when her husband quit work ten years ago, she decided to open her current sewing stand in order to get a better source of income to meet her husband's income loss. She articulated her ability to sew as the reason for taking up her current job. She repeatedly said that she had chosen the work not because she liked it but because she had the appropriate skills.
  42. Interestingly, most narratives suggest that in addition to having an economic need to work, these women also continued working because of a pleasure in and desire for business success. Hwang Sookja, for example, emphasised her pleasure at being appreciated for her business performance. She cheerfully explained about her business after being relocated to the Tongdaemun Stadium in 2004:

      I came here with empty hands. There was nothing I could do, so I started a candy business. Within the market, everyone knows the ajumma [auntie] of the candy trade. When I was doing the candy trade, customers said that my candies were delicious and told me to sell more.

    Figure 4. The entrance of the Tongdaemun Stadium where street entrepreneurs have been relocated. Photograph taken by Ayami Noritake, July 2007.

  43. Moon Meej ŏng recounted that she loved her restaurant work because of the interactions with customers, and that for her the development of her business meant providing customers with better-quality foods and services rather than making it larger physically and financially. She was born in Seoul in the late 1950s as the youngest child of the family, with one brother and five sisters. After her father's death, she helped her mother in the family restaurant. Getting married at twenty-one, she had two children. Her husband was engaged in the retail business. While her children were at primary school, she started a stand selling side dishes within the marketplace. Her business grew progressively and her stand turned into a larger-scale street restaurant employing four women. Hers was the only street restaurant I encountered, which contained a full coffee stand. She remarked that she had had this idea from her customers' demand for a variety of coffee and fruit drinks after the flour-based meals she offered. After she invited a young man to run the coffee stand inside her restaurant, it became so popular that he employed three helpers. She spoke of her pleasure in looking at her customers' happy faces.
  44. Most of my older interlocutors also conveyed a wish for autonomy at old age. Autonomy is a different desire and need from that of economic necessity. Although it is widely believed that poorer people rely on their children (especially sons) when they have aged,[55] these women's narratives suggest their wish to be economically independent. For them, economic independence means the freedom to make decisions for themselves. Song Okhee, who visits her first son's house in a satellite city every Saturday, repeatedly remarked that she preferred living alone to living with her son's family.
  45. My interlocutors also expressed a sense of collective identity, in contrast to a public image that street entrepreneurs are individualistic. While none of these women mentioned the labour and democratisation movements, which had intensified in the mid- and late 1980s, many recounted their sense of belonging to the KSVC. Most were members of the organisation. Their motive for joining was mainly to resist crackdowns. Hwang Sookja, a long-time member of the KSVC, was recently evicted from the side of the Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn Stream and relocated in the Tongdaemun Stadium together with over 800 street entrepreneurs. The KSVC insisted on the evicted street-entrepreneurs' relocation within the Tongdaemun Shijang.
  46. Their narratives also asserted their identity as members of a 'street vendors'' community, different from the KSVC. This became clear every time a threat of displacement occurred. For example, Song Okhee was terrified when a voice reached her on a hot day in July 2007 informing her that the local authorities were going to inspect street entrepreneurs in the area. 'I hate it!' she said. The KSVC immediately appealed for members to be cautious and to have stores clean and safe. However, her fear was based on the fact that the authorities considered her a 'street vendor' regardless of her membership of the KSVC. Her words, 'All the street vendors are family members,' express her identification with all the 'street vendors' who were under a constant threat of displacement.
  47. I also observed the women's sense of belonging to an informal mutual-help network of street entrepreneurs and other people such as friends cum customers. For example, those who directly responded to Song Okhee's aforementioned uneasiness related to the local authority's inspection were her friends, including her neighbouring street entrepreneurs and regular customers. They collectively provided her with a set of possible measures to deal with the inspection. When a local government official came, she was tense but ready to respond to him. The measures her colleagues and friends had suggested exactly met the demands of the official. She was relieved. Besides this, Song Okhee daily offered her friends who visited her stand a cup of instant coffee, and they often brought her foods and drinks, newspapers, clothes, and so on. She freely lent her bicycle to other (male) street entrepreneurs. She even let visitors use her stand space as a baggage room. A street entrepreneur friend of hers told me that Song Okhee had innate virtue, indŏk. Song Okhee smiled happily. Such a network and mutual trust among friends and colleagues is an important source of energy and sustenance for female street entrepreneurs.
  48. This collective identity, as a member of the 'street vendors'' community and of an informal mutual-help network, seemed to be stronger amongst those in their sixties than those in younger cohorts. This may be partly because the older women have had more experience of crackdowns and the risks associated with displacement as they have been engaged in street business longer. It may also be because the younger cohorts are more concerned with their need to earn enough for their children's schooling. Networks are not something which can be established in one day, but they are the product of a lengthy process of mutual engagement between people. Among my interlocutors, Hwang Sookja and Song Okhee had established the strongest networks. Apart from their personalities which enabled them to develop close friendships with many people, they commonly had more free time for interacting with neighbouring street entrepreneurs and friends than others with busier stands.
  49. Many of my interlocutors' narratives also reflect a business-related interdependence among workers in the area. While catering for shoppers, street entrepreneurs also satisfied the business and daily-life needs of other workers in the area. Many workers spend long hours at their workplace. Especially since the lifting of the prohibition of night traffic in 1982[56] and since the new fashion malls in the area started to operate overnight in the 1990s, the number of street stands and their operating hours have increased. Food businesses usually operate longer hours to cater for workers' varying hours. Song Okhee works from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. Bae Minsook works from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and her employee works from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Many restaurants are open for twenty-four hours. Since many workers work till late at night or overnight, there are also businesses such as spa cum sleeping rooms nearby. Street businesses need material and service providers, too. Several suppliers drop in to street stands every day to ask if they need anything.
  50. My interlocutors' narratives demonstrate that the gender dimensions of their lives was far more complicated than the ways in which gender was represented in dominant public discourses. Public discourses simply relate mothers' economic necessity to their engagement in street entrepreneurship—which most of my interlocutors confirmed. However, if their narratives are traced attentively, women's sense of gendered self emerged as far more complicated and multi-layered. From childhood, these women had been discriminated against in their social life in various ways. In the 1960s and 1970s, schooling was still the most common arena of gender discrimination in Korea. Some of my interlocutors stressed that they had not been given the chance at higher education because their parents or grandparents had prioritised boys' schooling. Moon Meejŏng, from the youngest cohort, was most direct and critical in talking about the gendered dimensions in her life. She can be differentiated from the other women by having a greater economic success through her larger-scale business, and by the fact that she has one elder brother and five elder sisters and lived with her grandmother till she married. She expressed her desire to give her daughter as good education as her son, while criticising her mother's and grandmother's prioritising her brother's schooling over hers and that of her sisters. Her desire for self-realisation in business may partly be a reaction to this deprivation of educational and other opportunities.
  51. While public discourses also offer a view that these women are confined to a marginalised workplace because of the lack of better opportunities, most of my interlocutors represented their work as a good opportunity. Women's opportunities in the Korean formal labour market have been limited by their gender, age, schooling and marital status. Until the mid-1980s, wage employment was not easily available for married and older women. Most of my interlocutors had already started their street businesses by the 1980s and had not been interested in waged employment such as factory work. Without the vocational skills required to participate in specialised industries, many of my interlocutors had conceived of their engagement in street business as one of their best options because of its ease of entry and earning potential (at least at the time of their entry).[57] Later on they found other positive outcomes from the work. They also had not sensed that street business discriminated against women, as the marketplace was always packed with female street entrepreneurs. Besides, most of their businesses were related to food preparation and clothing, with which they were familiar as the traditional domain of married woman.
  52. In addition, all the narratives suggest that these street entrepreneurs experienced a tension between different gender positions socially ascribed to them, namely those of married woman and mother. All of my interlocutors were married or widowed and had children. Until quite recently, it was assumed in Korea that all women would get married and have children (with a preference for sons). When my interlocutors in their fifties and sixties came of age, the responsibility and roles of a married woman and mother in the prevailing notion of womanhood were mainly of a homemaker and caregiver who nurtured family members. This was based on a clear gender division of labour in which money-making was not part of women's responsibility. In fact, most of my interlocutors stayed at home while their children were young, despite the insecure economic position of their households. However, when their children reached school age, most of the mothers needed to earn money to support their children's schooling.
  53. Most of my interlocutors linked their need to earn money with the inadequacy of their husbands' income to support the family, and some explicitly expressed their psychological burden or reluctance to work because it was against their role and wish to stay at home as married women. Most of my interlocutors asserted that they had started to work as breadwinners because their husbands failed in doing business or did not want to earn money any more. While some had worked to earn money within their home by doing piecework or occasional work when their children were toddlers, their narratives show a tendency to consider their work as complementary to their husbands' income, and working as breadwinners as a less desired option. Hwang Sookja explained her entry into street business as the main breadwinner of the family:

      My husband is from the North [Korea]. Coming here, well, he wasn't able to make a living, without skills, and didn't know how to do things. As he is aging, he can't do anything, he just sits. And then, while my husband looked after the children, I went out to do business.

  54. At the same time, many of my interlocutors in their fifties and sixties showed their strong desire to be homemakers. Song Okhee said:

      Do you want to know what I've wished to do?... It's the best if a woman just takes care of the home. That's the happiest, I think that way. Even now. If a woman can live [only] a family life at home, that's the best. That's the happiest.... Doing only housekeeping and working only at home, right? I think living at home doing this, this way is the happiest. Isn't that right? It's the happiest if you were born as a woman not to do other things than staying at home with children and [living] morally. Where else is happiness other than that?

  55. The tension between the desire to live an idealised womanhood and the need to fulfill an economic responsibility as mothers becomes a heavy burden for women, especially when they are forced to become the main breadwinners of their families. Bae Minsook did not show much suffering from such tension. This could be explained by the fact that she actively opted for this alternative way of living as the main breadwinner. In contrast, Shin Kyŏnghee is the one who most strongly, albeit implicitly, expressed a resistance and reluctance to becoming the main breadwinner of the family. She did not recount any experience of gender-based discriminative attitudes on the part of her parents. She had only sisters, no brother. Her narrative shows that she had felt tension since she started to work after marriage, and that she reached a turning point when her husband became unable to sustain the family and their desire to provide their children with higher education. When I asked her who had earned money while she was staying at home to rear her small children, she recounted:

      Now, in the situation of our country, women bring up children. Women also do housekeeping, and husbands go out to earn money. We have to do it. Naturally, I did housekeeping. While rearing children I did also all the housekeeping work. Having said that, it doesn't mean the other family members don't work. They clean the house, and (pause). Since my mother–in–law lived with us at that time (pause). Well, such a situation, [if you ask such] a question, all women['s situation] is almost the same, women without a special profession. So, I, too, lived that way.

  56. Shin Kyŏnghee started to run her sewing stand in the Tongdaemun Shijang when Korea was hit by the financial crisis. She told me that it was when her husband resigned from his company, although she did not mention the financial crisis. When I asked her why her husband had resigned his job of accounting manager in a company, she was at a loss for words, in contrast to the fluent narrative she had been engaged in till that moment:

      (Long silence) Well, (a deep sigh) now, it's complicated (pause). What I say, what I say, my feeling to talk [about it] (pause), it's very complicated. (pause) Since I should talk about all humane deep feelings, then, (pause) he quit the job because the company's situation and his own situation and character didn't suit each other.

    Although she avoided talking about her 'complicated' feelings in this narrative, she told me later that the news about her husband's resignation was a shock to her. She was more upset that she had to be the main breadwinner than that her husband had lost his job per se. Her narrative as a whole implies that she has felt a deep resistance to living her life differently from the dominant notion of a married woman as homemaker and caregiver. It emerged that she had considered her own income-generating work as complementing her husband's income till then and that she became the main breadwinner of the family against her own wishes.
  57. Here, it is important to note that Shin Kyŏnghee's gender identity has been neither static nor single. Although she has accepted the conventional, idealised model of married womanhood, she has also been engaged in a process of negotiation to accommodate different new needs and desires in her daily life. She recounted:

      In our country, well, there is a thought, which has come from the old times, that is that women have to support men. By the way, with my character, my thought is also fundamentally so, that fundamental idea. I believe a little, well, in the thought that we have to support men. But, compared to other women, I tend to insist on my opinions. I tend to insist to take action. I tell these things [to my children]. Even if you are a woman, even if you are a man, you have to do certain things. I have to do that. My children are a different generation to me, and [a woman] cannot stand without education and only supporting men. A daughter-in-law will come to us later, and they (she and my son) will [have to support] each other....

  58. My interlocutors' narratives also indicate that they were conscious of a gender division of labour, even in street business. Based on the notion that some kinds of work should be done by men, Song Okhee told me that she did all types of work for her business, including 'men's work' such as the transportation of heavy goods.[58] Her remarks expressed complicated feelings of regret, resignation and pride. Shin Kyŏnghee sewed at her stand while her husband attended customers, procured business materials, and cut fabrics for her. Even though she considered her husband's work as inferior to the ideal work for men, compared to his former position as an accounting manager, she expressed her appreciation of his work in helping and taking an important role in her business. She did so in order to assert her gender identity which otherwise would be unstable between the desire to live as a homemaker and caregiver and the need to support children's schooling as their mother.

  59. I have shown the interrelatedness of spatial, social and gender relations in the formation of the Tongdaemun Shijang through the representation of two histories of the marketplace: one from a macro–level dynamic of spatial, economic and gender relations; and the other constructed through female street entrepreneurs' sense of self and place.
  60. The first history explored space-gender concentrations and divisions of labour in national, regional and local economic and urban development. It revealed that space and gender worked to remap the physical and social location of women in street entrepreneurship in a chaeraeshijang. Various factors such as age, origin, class, education, and marriage highly affected the women's lives and spatial trajectories and the making processes of the marketplace. From the 1960s to the 1970s, with state-led export-oriented industrialisation, the gender ideologies of 'Korean style capitalism' mobilised young unmarried women into labour-intensive light industry in urban areas, especially into the textile and garment-manufacturing sectors in the Seoul region. The Tongdaemun Shijang was one of the sites where small firms in these sectors and street entrepreneurship were concentrated. From the mid-1980s, married women started to be employed in the garment-manufacturing and other labour-intensive sectors as unskilled labour. At the same time, the urban service sector developed rapidly with women's active participation as entrepreneurs and employees. In this period, the Tongdaemun Shijang developed as a commercial centre, and attracted numerous female street entrepreneurs—predominantly mothers. In recent decades, economic and urban development has caused an increase in the number of street entrepreneurs because of potential income-earning opportunities in street business, limited access to the formal labour market, and insufficient social security for the poor, the aged, and women. After the 1997 Financial Crisis, street entrepreneurship functioned as a safety net for those who suffered a loss in income. In the process of becoming one of the largest fashion markets in Korea and Asia, the Tongdaemun Shijang continued to attract female street entrepreneurs, particularly because of its specialisation in garment-related trade and the potential for earning an income in food-related businesses.
  61. The second history contrasts to the aforementioned in the representation of female street-entrepreneurs' engagement in the process of making the Tongdaemun Shijang. In the first history, being wives and mothers without competitive qualifications, female street entrepreneurs tend to be seen as passively confined to their current place due to limited access to the formal labour market. However, in the second history, in which I sought to highlight their subjectivities, female street entrepreneurs emerged as social agents who created their own meaning and place in the marketplace and the wider society. Their narratives indicate that their attachment to the marketplace has been shaped by multiple, interrelated and changing needs, desires and identities and through diverse ways of negotiating space and gender. At the same time, it is revealed that these women's different needs, desires and identities and ways of negotiation have been formed through the spatial processes of the marketplace and of the women's own lives such as marriage-migration, redevelopment, eviction, crackdowns, aging, and interactions with other street entrepreneurs and friends.
  62. There were as many common concerns as there were differences in the women's articulations of their sense of self and place. Regarding economic and family relations, their narratives highlight experiences of discrimination and increasing needs for children's schooling, stressing their families' well-being as their priority. Spatial relations were portrayed as migration to Seoul, proximity to family networks and income opportunities, daily physical mobility, aging, changes in access to space and other business resources, crackdowns and eviction. These spatial relations and physical mobility led to the interdependence between diverse actors. Personal abilities and desires were related to the search for a new life, inability to realise a dream at a young age, and business abilities. Collective identity was expressed in a variety of ways: as members of the KSVC, feeling a part of a community of 'street-vendors,' or that of an informal mutual-help network, and as interdependent on other entrepreneurs and workers of the area.
  63. Female street entrepreneurs' narratives represent the market as a place where they have formed new desires and identities, such as those associated with developing their enterprises and becoming autonomous elders, as well as developing a collective identity as members of a 'street vendors'' community and mutual-help network. These desires and identities contribute to their self-esteem, interdependency and give them the motivation to work every day as well as to continue with the process of making the Tongdaemun Shijang, that is the development of the marketplace.
  64. Further, the women's narratives express their gender identities as complicated and multi-layered. The most common issue was the tension between polarised gender positions: the desire to play the roles of homemakers and caregivers to follow the conventional ideal of married women in Korea and the additional desire to fulfil their economic responsibilities as mothers. Despite active engagement in street entrepreneurship, many have retained a desire to be the family homemakers and caregivers. The extent to which they suffer from the tension varies.
  65. Most notably, their ways of negotiating such tension are diverse. In part, this diversity derives from the variation in the extent to which they are dominated by these gender identities. For example, younger women are evidently freer from these gender ideals, and have been developing different processes of gendered self-formation. Some women negotiate the tension by forming other identities. Bae Minsook has a strong sense of being the main breadwinner of the family since marriage, asserting that it was her own decision to become the main breadwinner. Hwang Sookja expressed her identity as a member of a street-entrepreneurs' community, her wish to be appreciated for her business performance rather than her earning power, and her desire to be an autonomous elder. In comparison, Song Okhee expressed an incessant yearning to be a homemaker without much tension. She asserted her happiness as being appreciated by family members and friends for her entrepreneurship, caring for others and having a humane sense of being, as well as playing a role in developing an informal mutual-help network, and being autonomous. In contrast, Shin Kyŏnghee, who expressed her suffering from the tension most strongly, has not developed such a positive sense of self, separate from the realm of being a wife and a mother. However, she has also been negotiating her sense of gendered self by promoting a different set of gender ideals to her children and appreciating her husband's role as co-worker in the business.
  66. Diversity was observed not only among different age cohorts but also among different groups of street entrepreneurs, according to whether their children were already economically independent or not; whether they had migrated to Seoul before or after marriage, or grew up in Seoul; whether or not they were the main breadwinners of their families; whether or not they considered themselves successful in business; whether or not they had developed mutual-help networks. All these differences affected their sense of belonging to the place and of their gendered selves.
  67. This examination of female street entrepreneurship has destabilised certain fixed concepts of the place called 'Tongdaemun Shijang' and of 'married female street vendors.' The Tongdaemun Shijang, like other chaeraeshijang, is not merely a traditional and static entity, which is being modernised in a unilinear way. On the contrary, it is a place which has been formed and transformed with ever-changing, interacting, diverse identities of people, who transcend and mutually interact across the boundaries between this market and other places daily and over time. Furthermore, these women's subjectivities and identities were subjected to change through the processes of the becoming of this place (Tongdaemun Shijang) and of the women's lives, not limited by the monolithic identities of 'married women' or 'mothers.' Street entrepreneurship in contemporary Seoul continues to be a form of work which offers people, especially women who have limited access to formal income opportunities, a viable physical and social place. Therefore, street entrepreneurship should be regarded not as an informal economy but as a diverse economy.[59] Seoul's chaeraeshijang have developed to attract female street entrepreneurs because of their resilient, creative and diverse economic practices, in which diverse subjects are actively involved. Urban development should be reconceptualised to take account of such a notion of place, work and people.


    Acknowledgements: The research for this study was supported by funding from the Australian National University and a 2007 Korea Foundation Fellowship for Field Research Programme. The author gratefully acknowledges the help of street entrepreneurs in the Tongdaemun Shijang, the Korean Street-Vendors Confederation (KSVC), Korean Women's Institute, Ewha Womans University, and friends in Seoul. I would also like to sincerely thank Tamara Jacka, Ruth Barraclough, and the anonymous reviewers of the article for their very thoughtful and extremely valuable feedback. My sincere thanks also go to Carolyn Brewer and Pyone Myat Thu for their dedicated proofreading. An early version of this article was delivered at the AAGS International conference in Japan in March 2008.

    [1] Guide to Romanisation: This study mainly adopts the 1984 McCune-Reischauer-based romanisation system. As an exception, this study uses 'shi' for the letters 시 to facilitate English speakers. For example, 시장 (marketplace) is written as 'shijang.' For the names of well-known people and places, I follow the most widely used romanisation. For the names of authors, I use the romanisation that the authors themselves have used.

    [2] World Bank, World Development Indicator (2006), URL:, site accessed 15 April 2007. Korea ranked tenth in 2005.

    [3] The Seoul Metropolitan Government and the mass media have recently promoted Seoul as a 'world-class' city (see 'Editorial,' Seoul Shinmun, 17 June 1998). The Basic Urban Planning of Seoul 2020, published in 2003, highlighted the objective of making Seoul a world city with 'harmony between nature and people, and between history and the cutting-edge' (Hankook Ilbo, 7 April 2003). The urban redevelopment project of Seoul which has most appealed to the national and international community as a model has been the restoration of the Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn Stream, completed in 2005. As Massey notes in relation to London, this view of a 'successful' city is problematic. See Doreen Massey, For Space, London, Thousand Oaks, and New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2005, pp. 156–57. The success based on prioritising certain sectors such as finance and high technology depends on and causes increasing poverty and exclusion.

    [4] A demographic picture of Korean street entrepreneurs has not been compiled due to the dearth of reliable data.

    [5] I consider 'subjectivities' to be 'the ensemble of modes of perception, affect, thought, desire, and fear that animate acting subjects,' and 'as the basis of "agency," a necessary part of understanding how people [try to] act on the world even as they are acted upon.' See Sherry B. Ortner, Anthropology and Social Theory: Culture, power, and the acting subject, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006: pp. 106, 110. I consider the sense of self and place as an important part of the subjectivities in the subjects' relationships to place. With the term 'identities,' I refer to our understanding of the ways in which we, as individuals and collectivities, distinguish ourselves and are distinguished by others from them. This understanding is a dialectical process involving our own understanding of us and others and others' understanding of us and themselves. See Richard Jenkins, Social Identity, London and New York: Routledge, 1996: pp. 4, 20–28.

    [6] They are officially called 'pulbŏp nojŏmsang' (illegal street vendors). There are also legal street entrepreneurs who have a licence to run a street stand. However, the term 'nojŏmsang' is most commonly used alone to include even legal street entrepreneurs, and itself has connotations of illegality and backwardness.

    [7] I use the term 'street entrepreneurs' although street vendors' organisations generally call themselves nojŏmsang.

    [8] The term chaeraeshijang is used both in singular and plural forms.

    [9] For example, see Hagen Koo, Korean Workers: The Culture and Politics of Class Formation, Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press, 2001, p. 73; Soonok Chun, Kkŭnnaji An?n Shidaŭi Norae, Seoul: Hankyoreh, 2004.

    [10] John Allen, Doreen Massey, and Allan Cochrane, Rethinking the Region, London: Routledge, 1998; Doreen B.Massey, Space, Place and Gender, Cambridge: Polly, 1994; Massey, For Space.

    [11] See Map 1. The Tongdaemun Shijang is situated along the Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn Stream at the border between the Chung-gu District and the Chongno-gu District.

    [12] The Kwangjang Shijang, a part of the current Tongdaemun Shijang, was officially organised in 1904 for grocery trade, and for textile and garment trade in later periods.

    [13] Pil-wha Chang, 'Women and work: a case study of a small town in Korea,' in Challenges for Women: Women's Studies in Korea, ed. Sei-wha Chung, tr. Chang-hyun Shin, et al., Seoul: Ewha Womans University Press, 1986, pp. 255–81, p. 262.

    [14] The City History Compilation Committee of Seoul, The Launch of Seoul as the Capital of the Republic of Korea (1945–1960), Seoul Through Pictures 3, Mayor of Seoul, 2004, pp. 231–33.

    [15] Between 1967 and 1971, the annual average growth of the sector was 28.5 percent. This increased to 36.2 percent in 1972 and to 39.9 percent in 1973. Cited in Chun, Kkŭnnaji Anŭn Shidaŭi Norae, p. 75.

    [16] Joochul Kim and Sang-Chul Choe, Seoul: the Making of a Metropolis, London: Wiley, 1997, p. 21.

    [17] House helpers including nannies, predominantly women, have been in high demand in Korea's informal labour market. The Korean terms referring to these work positions have changed over the last four decades. In the 1960s and 1970s, employment advertisements in major newspapers used the terms shikmo (cook-maids) and yumo (nannies). In later decades, they have used kajŏngbu (house-keepers).

    [18] Economic Planning Board, Bureau of Statistic, 1971 Yearbook of Migration Statistics, Republic of Korea, 1972.

    [19] The unemployment rate was high in Seoul at that time as a large number of people migrated from rural areas and small towns to Seoul 'without any realistic prospects for jobs or housing' (Kim and Choe, Seoul, p. 23).

    [20] Kim and Choe, Seoul, p. 62, pp. 154–55.

    [21] Kim and Choe, Seoul, p. 11; Won Bae Kim, 'Developmentalism and beyond: reflections on Korean cities,' in Korea Journal, vol. 39, no. 3 (1999):5–34, p. 13.

    [22] Chun, Kkŭnnaji Anŭn Shidaŭi Norae, pp. 121–134. In general, women quit their job upon marriage, or were forced to leave the workplace around the age of twenty-two.

    [23] Married women's employment rate in the manufacturing sector, which was 13 percent in 1983, increased to 22 percent in 1992. In 1997, the rate of married, widowed and divorced women in all the female workers was 77 percent. See Hyun Mee Kim, 'The formation of subjectivities among Korean women workers: a historical review,' in Women's Experiences and Feminist Practices in South Korea, ed. Philwha Chang, and Eun-Shil Kim, Seoul: Ewha Womans University Press, 2005, pp. 177–204, pp. 177–78. This is partly because the education level of young women rose and few young women were willing to work in the sector.

    [24] Hyoung Cho, 'Labor force participation of women in Korea,' in Challenges for Women, ed. Chung, tr. Shin et al., pp. 150–72, p. 158. Cho defines the informal sector as 'marginalised,' 'subordinate' and 'composed of petit bourgeoisie and marginal workers' in contrast to 'the more advanced capitalist corporate sector.'

    [25] Cho, 'Labor force participation of women in Korea,' p. 159.

    [26] Denise Potrzeba Lett, In Pursuit of Status: The Making of South Korea's 'New' Urban Middle Class, Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 1998; Nancy Abelmann, The Melodrama of Mobility: Women, Talk, and Class in Contemporary South Korea, Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2003. Middle-class women's informal economic activities included transactions of real estate, group saving of kye, and home tutoring.

    [27] In 1986, the largest employer was the retail trade sector with 13.8 percent of the nation's workforce. The second largest was the textile and garment sector with 11.5 percent. In 1991, the largest employer was the retail trade sector employing 12.5 percent, the second was the social services sector with 9.4 percent (the education services sector accounted for 60.6 percent of this sector), and the third was the sector of restaurants and hotels with 8.98 percent, while the textile and garment sector held 8.93 percent. See National Statistical Office, Korea Statistical Year Book, 1987; 1991 Report on Establishment Census, vol. 2, Region, 1992.

    [28] In 1960, primary industry employed 2.2 percent of Seoul workers, secondary industry 24.9 percent, and tertiary industry 71.6 percent. See Economic Planning Board, 1960 Population and Housing Census of Korea, vol. 1, Complete Tabulation Report, 11–2 Seoul City, 1963.

    [29] Economic Planning Board, 1970 Population and Housing Census Report, Vol. 2, 10% Sample Survey, 4–1 Economic Activitiy, Republic of Korea, 1973; National Statistical Office, Economic Planning Board, 1991 Report on Establishment Census, vol. 2, Region, Republic of Korea, 1992.

    [30] The Han River, the largest river in Seoul, geographically divides Seoul into the southern part, Kangnam, and the northern part, Kangbuk. See Map 1.

    [31] Many experienced garment workers established their own garment workshops in neighbouring areas as subcontractors after losing a job or upon marriage.

    [32] Yusŏk Oh, 'Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn kwa Tongdaemun Shijang,' (Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn Stream and Tongdaemun Market), in Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn; Shigan, Changso, Saram -20seki Seoul Pyŏnch'ŏnsa Yŏngu I (Ch'ŏnggyech'ŏn Stream; Time, Place and People - Studies of transition of Seoul in the 20th Century I), Uyong Chŏn, Kiho Kim, Toyŏng Song, Uwon Kang, Yusŏk Oh, Yanggyŏ Chin, Inho Song, Seoul: Research Institute of Studies of Seoul, Seoul City University, 2001, pp. 117–59, p. 148.

    [33] At the time of my fieldwork, the divide between new complexes and older arcades was also apparent in the composition of owners and staff in shops. In the new complexes, most of the shop attendants were young female employees and the boss was not on site, while in the older arcades, the shops were mostly run by self-employed merchants and/or their family members, most of whom were middle-aged or older women.

    [34] The first street entrepreneurs' organisation was formed in 1986, and the KSVC was organised in 1988 as a national network of street entrepreneurs. It has been active in protecting the right of street entrepreneurs to earn their livelihood—by protesting against and negotiating with local authorities.

    [35] Seoul's policy at that time was also to modernise the chaeraeshijang by keeping the original shape and strengthening additional facilities for the customers' convenience such as parking areas, asphalted paths, and public toilets. See Dong-A Ilbo, 4 March 1983.

    [36] According to a Korean feminist critique, while the number of female part-time and casual workers has increased in the process of recovery from the crisis, women's employment has been practiced not by meritocracy but by patriarchal culture which discriminates against women in the formal labour market by defining them not as individual labourers but as a collective identifying them with the role of wife and mother. For example, see Hyun Mee Kim, 'Work, nation, and hypermasculinity: the 'woman' question in the economic miracle and crisis in South Korea,' in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, vol. 1, no. 1 (2001):54–68, pp. 64–66.

    [37] For a description of the pension system, I draw on the analysis of Satoru Okuda, 'Kankokuniokeru shoushikoureikato nenkinmondai,' (Issues on Korea's falling birthrate-aging and pension), in Keizaikikigono Kankoku: Seijukukini muketeno keizai-shakaiteki kadai -Kenkyuukai Chuukan Houkoku, (Post-economic crisis Korea: socio-economic challenges towards maturation -Research Council Interim Report), ed. Satoru Okuda, Institute of Developing Economies, 2005, pp. 143–67; and Dong heon Shin, 'Kankokuno kokuminhoshouseido' (The National Pension System of Korea), in Journal of The Medical Welfare Association of Kawasaki, vol. 15, no. 2 (2006): 565–69.

    [38] Shin, 'Kankokuno kokuminhoshouseido,' p. 566

    [39] As of July 2007, 56 percent of the subscribed self-employed and workers in small firms have not paid full subscription. See Segye Ilbo, 25 October 2007.

    [40] McNay refers to Paul Ricour's theory of narrative identity. See Lois McNay, Gender and Agency, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000, p. 89.

    [41] The figures are calculated based on the information my interlocutors gave me during my fieldwork. They run their businesses for more than twelve hours per day for six to seven days a week. In 2006, a household in Seoul earned US$3,440 (KRW3,200,000) per month on average while spending $ US 2,784 (KRW2,590,000, exchange rate US1=KRW930 applied). See Seoul Metropolitan Government, Seoul Statistical Yearbook 2007. Employees in shops and restaurants in the Tongdaemun Shijang were paid US$3.30–4.30 (KRW3,000–4,000, exchange rate $US1=KRW920 applied) per hour on average in July 2007.

    [42] The exchange rate $US1 = KW920, applicable in July 2007, is used here.

    [43] Here 'public discourses' indicate those of local officials, leading newspapers, scholarship and middle-class people, including those of leaders of the KSVC.

    [44] The Personal Narratives Group, Interpreting Women's Lives: Feminist theory and Personal Narratives, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989, p. 19.

    [45] Koo, Korean Workers; Chun, Kkŭnnaji Anŭn Shidaŭi Norae.

    [46] Junior secondary school nationally became compulsory and free in 2002.

    [47] Advertisements for white-collar working positions published in major daily newspapers indicate these trends.

    [48] The percentage of elementary school graduates going on to middle school increased from 58.4 percent in 1969 to 99.9 percent in 1997.

    [49] With the liberalisation of travelling abroad in 1989, the number of Korean students studying abroad increased from 18,000 in 1983 to 84,700 in 1992. In 1994, with the abolition of the compulsory (English) language proficiency qualification certified by the Korean government, the media estimated a drastic increase up to 100,000 students studying abroad by the end of the same year. See Seoul Shinmun, 15 April 1994.

    [50] By 'quality of life and of self,' I stress the mental and spiritual dimension rather than the material dimension of life.

    [51] There is no official figure to corroborate this account. However, one can easily note a larger presence of disabled people in the chaeraeshijang than in other commercial places in Seoul. Subway wagons are the other places with greater visibility of disabled people as merchants.

    [52] In the early 1980s, the job shortage for university graduates was already reported as a critical issue in the nation. See DongA-Ilbo, 4 September 1982.

    [53] As of August 2007, there were four subway stations and many city bus routes in the area.

    [54] According to my observation, women riding motorbikes started to be visible only in 2005 or 2006 in the Tongdaemun Shijang. This absence of women riding motorbikes should be related to the absence of female delivery agents. Most suppliers to street entrepreneurs were men who rode motorbikes to deliver goods. The gender norm that men transport heavy things has caused this gender division of labour and gendered mobility. The exception is the delivery of meals from small restaurants in the area, which is mostly done by middle-aged women on foot.

    [55] Korea has a long tradition of aged parents' dependence on their first sons. However, this trend has been changing in recent decades. In 1979, a decade before the introduction of the national pension fund, it was reported that 52.6 percent of respondents in a survey preferred their dependence on sons to a government pension (2.5 percent). See Chuson Ilbo, 30 November 1979. In 1990, 34.5 percent of survey respondents preferred to be dependent on the retirement grant and pension from employers, 22.0 percent on earning and property, 6.8 percent on children and the government fund. See Dong-A Ilbo, 23 January 1990.

    [56] The curfew was established by the US government in 1945 under the separation of the two Koreas.

    [57] In contrast, some women who had worked in the garment manufacturing sector in the 1960s and 1970s gained advanced sewing skills and established their own garment subcontracting firms in the neighbourhoods of the marketplace. Most of my interlocutors did not have such specialised skills.

    [58] At least in Seoul, at the time of my fieldwork, it was still a predominant gendered cultural practice that women ordered men to carry heavy things and men did so.

    [59] J.K. Gibson-Graham, Postcapitalist Politics, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006.


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