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Speculative Home-making: Women’s Labor, Class Mobility, and Real Estate Investment in South Korea

Tue, August 14, 10:30am to 12:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 5, Salon H


Since the 1960s, urban South Korea has seen a series of real estate booms characterized by a huge surge in the construction of apartment complexes and skyrocketing housing prices. In this environment, many South Koreans have begun to view their homes not only as the location for domestic life, but also as a source of profit-making, intensifying the commodification of land. Through in-depth interviews, I examine how women in South Korea have emerged as agents of this transformation by engaging in “speculative home-making,” an activity that merges the domestic work of household management with the complicated work of real estate speculation—that of gathering knowledge about different neighborhoods, predicting the future housing value, mobilizing resources from kinship networks, and deciding when to resell. This paper will investigate how such gendered practices of South Korean working-class and middle-class women shape social mobility and the deepening of the market economy. In doing so, the paper brings to the fore the significance of gendered labor for the study of urban space, economic development, and class-formation.


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