Facts Everyone Should Know

Facts Everyone Should Know About the Korean Perception of the Korean Sex Industry

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prostitutionThe Korean perception of the Korean sex industry is quite different from others. The most common statements and inquiries I seem to get from fellow Koreans are, “Well, what about the girls who enter the sex industry voluntarily when they’re adults? What about the women who do it to buy luxurious things? They say they love what they do. It’s their own choice. Should I feel sorry for them when they want to work in that industry?” To the modern day abolitionist who has done extensive research into the sex industry and trafficking, these responses could sound very typical. Unfortunately, in the Korean society, especially the Korean American society, these are valid perceptions that people will probably form. Why?

First of all, the bottom line is that whether entered voluntarily or forced into the sex industry, all of these human beings are victims because they are victimized in one way or another, even if some may be unaware of the victimization. Secondly, of course there are many problems to the types of statements above that mostly Koreans seem to make and believe in because not all of the girls who get into the industry voluntarily love what they do. In fact, almost every single sex worker in the industry, who has been rescued or has had the opportunity to leave on their own, has expressed or endured immense regret, shamefulness, embarrassment, stigmatization, depressive disorders, suicidal tendencies, substance abuse, mental and emotional pain, anger, resentment, self-hatred, and rejection from society. Even the prostitutes who fight for the right to sell their bodies, the most famous porn stars in the world, and the strippers who fight for the right to strip down naked all have public personas, where they say they love men, sex, and money. In reality, when they are alone, they have confessed that it is just a public persona that they must portray at all times in order to continue earning a living and keeping their guards up.

On the other hand, these skewed Korean perceptions that the sex industry workers love what they do could be seen as valid to a certain extent. The reason is because there are so many young Korean girls, who come from good families, getting into the industry willingly in Korean communities. We see them driving in super luxurious cars and living in fancy high-rise apartments, carrying and wearing expensive, fashionable items, buying whatever they want, living a normal life during the day and carrying on a secretive life in the sex industry at night. Do I believe that some of these women ruin it for the rest of the sex slaves? Yes, of course. But we cannot separate these two types of sex workers and simply label one group as greedy, sex addicts and the other as forced sex slaves. All of these women are victims of the pitfalls of the sex industry. And many who enter voluntarily end up realizing they cannot leave voluntarily when they wish to. This is not only in the physical sense. We must also understand that there are millions who are involuntarily getting into the industry as well. These women and children are forced into physical bondage as well as emotional, spiritual, and mental bondage. There are many children who escape the industry when they are adults. They have stated that these pimps and madams treat them like family and even warn them against having sex for money. Yet at the same time, they will thrust men into their lives and tell the them to get to know these men. They tell them to go after the money, not the men. Thus, the girls eventually succumb to having sex with these men for money. Sometimes, the pimps and sex establishment business owners will brainwash the child by seemingly caring for them. They will coax the child to become more and more open to devious sex acts using tactics and strategies to make them feel as if they have no other options in life. A number of these victims develop Stockholm Syndrome, which is a psychological effect where hostages and victims develop sympathy and affection towards their traffickers and pimps.

It is much worse for a child who enters voluntarily or who is trafficked against his/her own will into the sex industry. The traction and mind control that a trafficker has over a young child can be very manipulative and atrocious. Many times, traffickers threaten these victims saying that they will be killed, mutilated, and stuffed in the gutter if they pursue an escape from the industry. I have beeThere are also instances where these sex slaves are forcefully given drugs so that when they are eventually rescued, they actually end up going back to the brothels on their own due to the stronghold of the drugs which are overpowering their lives. These girls are being exploited in every which way possible, and the men who frequent these types of establishments either don’t care or are unaware. Let’s make them care! Let’s spread awareness! Even room salons (room bangs) or hostess bars which appear harmless are actually refined brothels. Many of these women who work in these types of establishments in the States are tricked and trafficked into the States under false identities. There is also a growing trend of American women who are getting into this industry for the “quick and easy” money.

Remember–just because there’s a happy-looking girl acting like she wants to have sex with a customer or even stating that she loves her job, nine out of ten times, this is a façade.

This also trickles into the porn industry as well as strip clubs and online sex chat rooms. Sexual exploitation makes up 79% of human trafficking, including forced stripping, pornography, massage services, and prostitution. Behind closed doors, these sex slaves live in terror, shame, guilt, fear, and without any hope. They are the most vulnerable humans on Earth. We must spread the word to help stop this injustice from continuing on! The complete abolition of sex trafficking in our lifetime is imperative and affects each and every person in the world today.

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Facts Everyone Should Know About the Victims of the Korean Sex Industry

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Photo Credit: stripes.com
Photo Credit: stripes.com

The majority of sex trafficked girls in Korea who attempt to get out of the sex industry after years of victimization, do so between the ages of twenty to thirty years old, according to the statistics posted on the anti-sex trafficking division of the Korean Salvation Army website. This is due to the lack of demand for “older” women whereas children and younger women are much more desired in the sex industry. In its 2010 report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said Korean men were the prime clients of child prostitutes in Korea, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. The U.S. State Department’s annual report on human trafficking also points to Korean men as being the main clients of child prostitutes in Southeast Asia and Pacific islands.

  • Once a girl gets into or is placed into the sex industry, the desire to escape another undesirable situation, far worse than what they have come from, is eminent and just a matter of time. However, as easy as it was to escape their initial situations, they find it almost impossible to do so this time around.
  • Once departure is attempted, the victims are taken captive through coercion using violence, sexual assault, and debt. Continuously extending the victims’ debts is one of the most commonly used methods by traffickers and pimps in order to restrain them from leaving.
  • For many who do escape, they become trapped within their own shame, loss of hope, trauma, drug addiction, lack of employment options, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • There is also a lack of sympathy towards these victims once they are out due to a lack of understanding as to why there is a need to help these women. Most authorities view these women as violators of the law rather than victims. Furthermore, there is a lack of prevention and intervention as well as the inadequacy of protest and voice for victims of trafficking. More action on preventative measures and harsher legislation for sex trafficking is necessary.
  • Due to the silencing of topics such as sex trafficking or male violence against women, there is a noticeable absence in the empowerment of women within all age groups especially in many Korean churches, which result in a type of latency in the Korean community. Not only has the intense educational stance and vigorous academic exercise forced upon young students by most parents in Korea have contributed to increased sex trafficking victimization, the country also has the second highest rate of suicides in the world.
  • In Korea, a punishment for murder is around ten years in prison whereas in another country, it would be a life term. Similarly, the laws for women’s rights are intact however there are no serious ramifications for domestic violence. Male violence against women, especially in a hegemonic and patriarchal society such as the one in Korea transcends into increased sex trafficking with more sex victims who are still in their youths.
  • Churches in Korea can do more within this realm by taking action with legislators to not only create but also enforce harsher laws for crimes of domestic violence than the ones in place. [1]
  • Engaging with legislators is essential as the Korean government will not take initiative towards finding a solution to domestic violence or sex trafficking since they do not view these as urgent or significant problems. As Korea continues to progress and grow as a nation, the sex trafficking industry is also flourishing.
  • Because Koreans were so poor only a few decades ago, money is still a fairly new concept to the country. No one wants to go back to being a third world country therefore people are overworked and turn to the sex industry as an outlet for their high level of stress.
  • During the Korean War, the Korean government wanted to relieve and keep up the morale of the American troops who were deployed into South Korea to help them. So, the government lured women into brothels in areas called Kijichon and Yong Ju Gol where most American army bases were located. Forced and voluntary prostitution in militarism resulted in new terms for women such as Western Princesses, Comfort Women, and Juicy Girls. After the war was over and the troops headed home, the brothels remained open and continued to thrive with the locals and tourists as years passed. Today, it is one of the largest red light districts with huge parking lots that accommodate visitors and customers. The land on which these brothels sit on are owned by the Korean federal government who does nothing to shut these places down as many of them are most likely customers themselves or have been in the past.
  • This issue with the American soldiers who are in Korea mimics the past and brings back the old ghosts of the “comfort women” who were forced into sex slavery for the Japanese soldiers. The only difference between these two instances is that with the most current occurrences, the Korean government has direct involvement in encouraging the Korean women of the nation to submit to the American soldiers in order to keep them satisfied in the country for as long as possible. Nothing has been done to rectify this predicament, and churches in that area have not addressed this problematic situation. An article from the NY Times has stated:

Many former prostitutes live in the camp towns, isolated from mainstream society, which shuns them. Most are poor. Some are haunted by the memories of the mixed-race children they put up for adoption overseas.

Jeon, 71, who agreed to talk only if she was identified by just her surname, said she was an 18-year-old war orphan in 1956 when hunger drove her to Dongduchon, a camp town near the border with North Korea. She had a son in the 1960s, but she became convinced that he would have a better future in the United States and gave him up for adoption when he was 13.

About 10 years ago, her son, now an American soldier, returned to visit. She told him to forget her.

“I failed as a mother,” said Ms. Jeon, who lives on welfare checks and the little cash she earns selling items she picks from other people’s trash. “I have no right to depend on him now.”

“The more I think about my life, the more I think women like me were the biggest sacrifice for my country’s alliance with the Americans,” she said. “Looking back, I think my body was not mine, but the government’s and the U.S. military’s.”

Photo Credit: nytimes.com
Photo Credit: nytimes.com
  • Typically, the government’s stance on the domestic violence and sex trafficking issues are not those of abolition but more towards decreasing the spreading of sexual diseases between sex workers.
  • Prostitution is illegal in South Korea, and the government has verbalized the need to recognize the women as victims and not perpetrators. However these victimized women who need mental, medical, emotional, and post-trauma relief once they have been released from bondage have had to endure harsh stigmatization, depression, rejection from society, shame, and prosecution for violating laws.
  • As for the service towards the American troops stationed in Korea, no word yet on any type of retribution or rehabilitation for the women who were coerced into slavery for the “good” of the country.

God, help Korea and the Korean communities around the world.


[1] in 1997: the Special Act on Domestic Violence (referred to as the “Punishment Act”), and the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Victim Protection Act (“Protection Act”). Once the ‘Punishment Act’ and the ‘Protection Act’ were enacted.

Facts Everyone Should Know About the Korean Church and the Sex Industry

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written by gkim

red-cross-in-koreaCurrently, the majority of Korean and Korean-American churches do not directly address the issues of sex trafficking to their ministry or congregation therefore contributing even more to the societal taboos in the Korean culture. Onnuri English Ministry, led by Pastor Eddie Byun, is one of the only churches in S. Korea that adamantly prays for and incorporates this issue into their ministry duties as well as during the weekly sermons. Onnuri English Ministry’s justice ministry Hope Be Restored, which Pastor Eddie Byun founded, is a model for how other churches can set up their own justice ministries.

Korean and Korean-American churches must adopt the positions of initial prevention or intervention as the government policies which are in place fail to effectively do so. More responsibility should be taken upon by and distributed amongst the ministry to expose these issues by implementing systematic guidelines and discussion openly and outwardly with its congregation on a regular basis. This is essentially necessary for the Korean society which has become so immersed into the sex industry that it’s practically a silent part of the culture. Relying on the government to take on this task is effective only to a certain point. Although the U.S. government has taken increased measures on eradicating and eliminating the trafficking industry, the sex industry itself is growing out of control. Also government officials can only go so far with aftercare. God heals people. People cannot heal each other. But we can help others become closer to God so that they may be healed. The church can increase awareness within youth to adult age groups as well as through outreach programs incorporating detailed education of the dangers and consequences of sex trafficking . It is imperative to incorporate these types of teachings in the church as pedagogies do not yet do so in Korea. The church needs to place more emphasis on the sanctity of justice, faith, spirituality, and divinity by starkly contrasting these virtues over elitist education, economic status, materialism, and competition in the Korean society. Educating the youth about the sacredness of virginity in both males and females is also necessary however with the current statistical data, it is clear that there must be a much more aggressive approach to educating men about the sanctity of  virginity and marriage as Korean men are the number one seekers of child prostitutes in Asia according to the U.S. State Department’s annual report on human trafficking. Since the church is silent in regards to sexual matters, and sex talks are usually taboo in the general Korean society, it becomes problematic for the future of Korea. When the church does not address current societal issues about the sex industry, the industry then grows and becomes more sustainable and resilient against the small population of abolitionists who are working to fight against the violence against women within modern day slavery. Young Christians especially need to be educated separately in an orientation on a regular basis so that they do not fall into the pitfalls of the sex industry.

iStock_000038087176SmallChildren of Korean descent are confined into a robotic education system starting at a very young age. The stress from an overload of information and highly competitive society actually work against the youth than for them, particularly in many instances of broken or abuse-ridden homes. The church should not only take an educational approach in trying to prevent and decrease the number of  teenage runaways by utilizing educational tools in the ecclesia, but the ministry leaders must also be aggressive in meeting with legislators and getting Congress involved to create harsher laws and punishments for violence in the home that instigates children to flee their own homes as well. Churches must be more open and vocal towards violence against women issues period. When churches do not address such issues on a regular basis, this sends a message to the victims of abuse that these types of topics are shameful and should be kept locked in the home. The children who are born into homes with domestic violence become witness to their mothers being subjugated to physical violence and doing nothing about it. Therefore, this contributes to more instability within the children and further escalates the possibilities of running away from home, which thus leads to increased child slavery and sex trafficking. There are many churches that take this one step further and preach about forgiveness and submission on the woman’s part. This results in problems within the home remaining stagnant. It also increases the chances that the children in these families will grow up to be just like their abusive fathers or submissive mothers. This further perpetuates the vicious cycle of teenage runways who end up in the sex industry.

If these issues are openly discussed during sermons on a weekly basis, this can directly target the perpetrators in the church and clearly expose the ramifications for this type of behavior. The ministry needs to make it clear that any type of violence against women will not be tolerated. They should reach out to victims or intervene through the power of divinity openly and outwardly so that female victims may benefit and go through a process of healing from prayer and hearing the word of God.

Victims of sex trafficking who have post-traumatic disorder or other types of mental and emotional trauma typically take three to ten years to adjust and assimilate back into a normal life. This duration can potentially be dramatically decreased through spiritual healing programs in the church. Thus, the church can become a voice for those who are suffering silently. To conclude, through types of sometimes condoned violence against women in Korea, the sex trafficking industry has also quietly been adopted and grown into mainstream culture. The country’s economy and corporate designations have become intertwined with trafficking. Many people may frown upon the fact that a church would take upon such issues and publicize them–saying that the church should only focus on the gospel. But, this is a skewed perception of Christianity. We, as Christians, should show the world what God’s justice and love can do! It is inexcusable that churches do not make it a priority to end modern day slavery in Korean society which is driven by the sex industry. Churches should enforce more education and move towards progression with legislation and outreach through the ministry as this is an ecclesial injustice as well as a social injustice.