The Labor of Cultural Conception and Uncertainty in Cultural Work: The Work of Korean Drama Writers

Hoyoung Kim


This article explores writers’ labor and precarity in the drama production sector of the South Korean television industry. In particular, to examine what is often referred to as creative labor, I suggest the concept of the labor of cultural conception, which I define as the labor of imagining, conceiving, and developing ideas and expressing them through language in the production process of cultural and symbolic products. For this research, in 2018 and 2019, I conducted in-depth interviews with 20 research participants who produced dramas airing on broadcasters and cable channels in South Korea. The findings show that the industry structurally accumulates value from writers’ unpaid labor of cultural conception in planning a television drama show by offloading risks to writers and using a piecework pay system. Writers also suffer from pressures, anxiety, and stress because they are required to generate ideas and write scripts according to shooting and editing cycles and rhythms. I argue that applying the concept of labor of cultural conception clarifies the distinctive forms of precarity and exploitation that workers face in cultural industries.


cultural work, creative labor, cultural conception, creativity, political economy, television writers, Korean drama

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