Revolt of Coffee Servers

  • Eunju Hwang (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Traditionally, both in the West and Korea, office work and documentation were considered male job. However, at the end of the 19th century in Europe and the US, the female clerk first appeared and soon the number exponentially increased. Similarly, at the end of the 1960s in Korea, female office workers appeared and in the 1970s, the number suddenly increased. How did female workers come to the office scene taking male job? The author assumes that the change took place suddenly yet naturally. Women took over some part of office work which was considered feminine and gradually expanded their work to documentation and other types of office work. Then, what kind of feminine duties did bring females to the office? In 1999, Friedrich Kittler, in his book Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, argues that female workers appeared together with the introduction of typewriters. Indeed, in 1870, there were only 7 female office clerks (typewriters and stenographers) in the US, however, after E. Remington & Sons’ Remington II typewriter became very popular, in 1880, suddenly there were 2,000 female office clerks. Kittler explains that females used to play the piano, therefore, using typewriters was relatively considered female job. However, this Western history does not explain the appearance of Korean female office workers as typewriters were not much used in Korea for various reasons such as the popular use of Chinese characters, which are ideograms, in the 1960s and 1970s. Instead, the author’s hypothesis shows that the reason could be the popularity of coffee at the beginning of the 1970s. According to the Korean alcohol serving tradition, when visitors and customers visited the office, it was required to treat them with coffee, which was considered day-time alcohol, and women appeared in the office to serve coffee and to do other chores such as cleaning the office. As evidences, the author suggests three types of supporting data. First, the sales report of coffee in the Korean market during the 1960s and 1970s will be shown together with the invention of instant coffee in 1970. Second, the linguistic root of yeogup (a waitress in a cafe, literally meant a female office clerk) will be investigated. Third, the major duties of office clerks during the 1960s and 1970s will be examined.
Period8 Sept 2018
Held atKonkuk University, Korea, Republic of


  • glass wall
  • Coffee
  • female employees