Gender and Language, Vol 11, No 4 (2017)

Why do interpreters need to be beautiful? Aesthetic labour of language workers

Jinhyun Cho
Issued Date: 6 Dec 2017

Abstract


This article explores the intersections between language, gender and commodification in the Korean language market, in which the focus is currently shifting from language proficiency to personal aesthetics. By drawing on the concept of ‘aesthetic labour’, it explores how and why beautification has emerged as one way of enhancing individual competitiveness among English–Korean female interpreters who are engaged in heavy competition in the context of market saturation. This process is best embodied by the recent media phenomenon of eoljjang tongyeoksa or ‘good-looking interpreters’, which refers to a number of beautiful female interpreters working on television and sensationalised in the media. This paper examines how contemporary female interpreters cope with a market demand for performing beauty work in addition to language work in order to highlight aesthetic labour as a strategically gendered approach for selfcommodification in a patriarchal language market.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.31618

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