This is a photo of Korean girls and women manufacturing gloves at a factory in Gwansu-dong, Seoul exactly 80 years ago today.
They were former slum residents employed by Wakōkyōen (和光教園), a social welfare organization of the Jōdo Buddhist sect, which started its activities in Korea in 1893. It was one of two Japanese Buddhist social welfare organizations which were operating in Seoul during the colonial period, the other one being the Kōjōkaikan (向上会館) run by the Ōtani-ha Buddhist sect, which started its activities in Korea in 1878. When the Seoul government was clearing the slum areas of the city, these social welfare organizations were charged with rehousing them and giving them jobs and education. However, the main goal of these efforts was actually to push the slum residents out of sight in the name of ‘beautifying’ the city, rather than to improve their living standards. Therefore, the living standards of the former slum residents remained relatively poor. The public housing projects of the former slum residents were substandard and unsanitary with poor sewage systems.
Professor Nozomi Akizuki at the Institute for International Studies at Meiji Gakuin University wrote a well-researched Japanese-language blog page about this topic, in which he presents Japanese-language and Korean-language source materials from the colonial period to fill in the details. https://ameblo.jp/onepine/entry-12466055220.html
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) November 17, 1942
Military gloves which grip the five continents
◇… Five fingers grip the five continents. Gloves that protect the fingertips from the threat of cold weather are the spearhead of production expansion this winter. At the Wakōkyōen Knitting Factory in Gwansu-dong, Seoul, 50 female workers devote themselves all day long to the task of working on the knitting machines to produce military gloves.
◇… Clang, clang. Each time the machine shakes, the fingertips of black gloves and white gloves sprout out, and each worker produces 45 pairs of gloves a day, or 28,000 pairs a year, making a pile of snow-white gloves. A poster in the corner of the factory encourages workers to “be aware that this is work that was entrusted to you by the state”. These gloves produce a revenue of 30,000 yen a year. These gloves are the warm friends of the winter production warriors. [Photo: Wakōkyōen’s glove factory]