What Is It Like Where My Shoes Are Made?


Do you know what it is like where your shoes are made?


Part I:
Use (one or more of) Wikipedia, encyclopedias, and atlases to find out about a shoe-making hot spot. You can choose a factory from the list below or use your imagination and choose another country with a huge shoe industry, like Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, Malaysia, or Sri Lanka. What can you learn about the country that you’ve chosen? What is the country like there? The geography? The climate? The people? Optional locations to choose from are as follows:

  • South Korea: The port city of Pusan on the southeastern coast emerged in the early 1970s as the country’s main centre of footwear production, employing at one point over 150,000 footwear workers.
  • China: Wellco Factory, in Dongguan, Chang'an, is a Korean-invested factory contracted by Nike. Eight thousand workers are employed there, though most of these workers have not signed any contract with the factory.
  • Vietnam: Tai Kwang Vina factory employed 10,000 people. Most workers were immigrants from northern and central Vietnam who left their homes, families, and work in rice fields for a better city life.
  • Taiwan: Quan Tak Footwear Company—A Taiwanese newspaper reported that nearly 4,000 workers from Quan Tak had staged a wildcat strike, demanding they be paid for five years’ worth of unpaid overtime. The factory closed shortly afterward.
  • Part II:
    Let's take the story of your shoe one step further. What would your shoe see and experience if it came from one of those factories? Describe a scene in detail that a shoe would see using the information you've found. You may use illustrative storytelling, drawing—however you feel that you can best express your ideas. Share your scene and what you've learned about your chosen country with your class. Example: After being assembled in a Korean-owned factory in an industrial district outside of Jakarta, Indonesia, the shoes are now on their way to being shipped to the country where they’ll be sold. The shoes feel the hot and humid tropical climate, and through a hole in the side of the truck that carries them they see the high tides of the Java Sea and the foodstalls lining the road, piled high with dishes of tofu, nasi goreng fried rice, and gado-gado vegetables slathered with peanut sauce.

    Learning Objectives

    1. Explore the ties of students' shoes to a global system of consumption and production. 2. Identify geographical and anthropological details of shoe manufacturing countries. 3. Translate learned material into a creative articulation of basic knowledge.

    Continue to Where Are Your Feet Taking You? »