South Korean Cort/Cor-tek Guitar Workers’ Action and the Politics of Digital International Solidarity Introduction
I play a Cort guitar. I inherited it from my mother when she gave up on learning campfire songs. When she gave it to me, she said she had been told that Corts were known for having impressive sound quality for a surprisingly low price, but it was only about a decade later that it occurred to me to wonder why. The reason, I learned, has to do with an ongoing history of corporate violence and workers organizing against the South Korean Cort/Cor-Tek Guitars and Basses company. The company, in turn, has sought yet cheaper and more docile labour in China and Indonesia, keeping prices low and profits high even as Korean Cort/Cor-Tek workers (hereafter "Cort workers") have mounted an international solidarity campaign. Under the page heading "Workers' Stories" of the website Cort Guitar Workers ACTION!: Guitar Workers + Musicians United! (https://cortaction.wordpress.com) a litany of harrowing stories are framed by these lines: For 10, 20, 30 years, Working in solvent and fumes in factories without windows . . . Forced to work overtime, and never able to see your family . . . Injuries, harassment, verbal abuse . . . and the final indignity—a mass firing under the cover of a sham bankruptcy. (Cort Action, n.d.e) This article explores the trajectory of Cort Guitar Workers Action (CGWA) campaign against these injustices, showing how it has used the aesthetic force of popular music as an international language to forge solidary links with Western music industries, often using the enabling constraints of digitally mediated international solidarity.