Two-and-a-half years ago, Miss Lee came to Seoul from her parents' farm to work in a textile plant.

She quickly became skilled at her work and now supervises 50 machines that produce cloth sold on the international market.

Miss Lee is paid $2.50 a day.

Her company, moreover, often illegally demands that she work nine or 10 hours a day, and pays her no overtime. Until she and a group of friends engaged in some mild agitation, Miss Lee was forced to work seven days a week when her company had a backlog of orders.

Many of Miss Lee's co-workers still do not get a day off each week - only the monthly menstrual leave.

Miss Lee's low wages, and her lack of bargaining power to raise them in a country where strikes are forbidden, are in the other side of South Korea's bright economic picture.

While Korea has gleaming new factories and a growing middle class, it remains a land of miserable poverty and Dickensian wages and employment conditions for the working class.

One academic expert feels that restlessness is growing, among South Korea's poverty over how little of their country's new prosperity is trickling down, to the lower-paid workers.

Tame as it may seem by Western standards, agitation in the mills is increasing, he points out.

So far, this has not consisted of anything much more daring than an occasional slowdown. Bus drivers in Seoul recently protested by meticulously observing all traffic rules - thereby delaying trips and costing the company money.

For the more obstreperous, government agents are an ominous presence.Miss Lee, the textile worker, asked that her real name not be used in this story because she already receives regular visits from the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.

KCIA agents and local police also appear routinely to caution leaders of the Urban Industrial Mission, a Presbyterian church-sponsored organization that tries to advise mill workers of their rights under the national labor law.

Labor unions in South Korean are Labor Unions in South Korea are gen [LINE ILLEGIBLE] Park Chung Hee's 1972 "emergency" laws prohibited strikes. If a union seeks more than a company is willing to give, a government panel arbitrates and its decision is binding.

Even if union were free to strike and bargain in Korea, most economists feel they would not have much clout. With 400,000 new workers pouring into the job market annually, abundant cheap labor will be available for years.

Big business, meanwhile, attempts to fight union with big does of paternalism. The Hyundai Group companies give every worker a free lunch, and they build hospitals and schools for their employees at Ulsan.

"Union are not necessary," says H.W. Paik, a Hyundai Motor Co. executive. "Chairman Chung (Hyundai board chairman Chung Ju Yung) is like a grandfather to us."

Statistically, the gains Korean workers have made over the past 17 years are striking. Between 1963 and 1975, average real wages increased by 7 per cent annually. In 1961, per capita income in South Korean was about $100. Last year, it was about $700.

Moreover, there is some evidence to support the government's claim that income distributed more evenly in South Korean in other developing countries.

A 1970 study published in Great Britain showed that the poorest 40 per cent of South Korea's population earned 18 per cent of the country's income - far better than the same group fared in such Latin American, countries as Honduras or Ecuador, better than in the Philippines, and about the same as in Taiwan.

"There is little doubt that there has been a substantial improvement in the income and welfare of the entire population," a World Bank study recently concluded.

In some of the newer industries that mark Korea's next stage of development, the wages are far above the standards of the old textile mills and shoe factories. An average auto worker in the Hyundai Motor Co. plant, for example, earns about $200 a month. Skilled workers earn considerably more.

Management and government officials argue that wage rates cannot climb too rapidly or South Korea industries will lose their competitive advantage in international market. Low wages in the shoe and textile factories helped launch the country's economic boom in the 1960s, and they are still very much a factor as the big move is made to heavy machinery and more sophisticated export products.

South Korean has begun to cut into Japan's shipbuilding markets because, in part, its wage-scale in shipyards is only about one-third that of Japan.

But the pressure from below for a bigger slice of the pie will continue to grow, according to those who have watched the stirrings of textile workers. One scholar who has long studied the workers' scene said that despite the gains of the past 15 years, there is a sharper sense of inequality today among those who have made the smallest advances.

"The general standard of living is going up, but the aspirations are going higher," he said."There is a greater sense of deprivation when the people see that some are living in homes that are like castles."