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COMMENTS

So, basically, we wanted to spend this TL;DR to talk about how widespread prostitution is in Korea, and how the language of it versus the reality of it are at loggerheads. Prostitution in South Korea is illegal, mind you, but it’s everywhere, and it’s in your face. So much so that 1 in 5 men pay for sex FOUR GODDAMNED TIMES A MONTH. It’s not just “1 in 5 men have visited prostitutes before in their lives.” Oh no. 1 in 5 men go to prostitutes REGULARLY, so much so that if stamp cards were offered, 1 in 5 men would have boxes full of them. And it’s not just 20% of the men going to some girls who are exceptionally dedicated to their jobs to service as many men as possible. Supposedly 1 out of every 25 women in the country is selling their bodies for sex. Prostitution here is big. It’s too big for us to talk about in one video and blog post, but we’re hoping at least that we can express the scope of it.

The point of this post and video isn’t to freak you out and to make you think that every guy is a pervert and every girl a prostitute. Please don’t think that, as tends to happen with our TL;DRs whenever we say something remotely unfavourable about South Korea. What we’re trying to get across through this is the painting of a more reasonable landscape with which to understand the Se7en scandal of his going to a massage parlour. Some people are shocked by it. For others who know South Korea a bit more, it’s not really that shocking at all. The idea of “oops I didn’t know,” or “I only went there for a massage, nothing else!” is far less believable the more you understand how widespread prostitution is in South Korea, and how common it is for men to partake in it. Se7en got busted, but don’t think that your favourite Kpop bands and Kdrama actors are all pure and innocent and that Se7en’s the perverted exception. If anyone else in the industry gets busted, well…no shit.

And, yes, prostitution is illegal, but as to how much the police uphold the law is another discussion. Some nights, for example, when we leave the studio at 2AM or so, and we’re taking a taxi home, there’s one strip of the block that has tons of stairwells lit up with pink lights and lots of girls standing outside these stairwells walking back and forth……aaaaand on the next block is the police station. The lax nature towards prostitution is not even subtle. It’s everywhere, and if you know what you’re looking for, it’s in your face all of the time.

Another thing we skipped out on talking about in this video is Kissing Rooms. We just found out about these today from Soo Zee when we asked her about prostitution. There are PC Bangs, where you play PC Games, DVD Bangs where you watch DVDs (and sometimes get it on with your significant other), and there are also rooms called “Kis-suh Bangs.” Think of em this way: in a PC Bang you play PC games, but you don’t have to bring your PCs with you. The shop provides PCs for you. In a Kiss Bang, you kiss girls, but you don’t have to bring girls with you. The shop provides them for you. You can also supposedly fondle the girls as you’re making out with them. Frankly, we’ve never seen these anywhere, so we can’t say much more about them, and – no – we won’t go on a WANK to a Kiss Bang to investigate! Supposedly also outside of Kiss Bangs you can order coffee to your home late at night. A girl will bring you a coffee and some sex as well. Oddly, there aren’t any strip clubs in Korea, supposedly. I remember seeing them in Toronto, but I’ve yet to see one in Korea.

The other problem we have with the sex industry in Korea is – in the face of how omnipresent it is – the lack of legalization seems to be a harmful factor. Korea has a thriving sex industry, which – whether Korean people want to admit or not – is still happening. Because it isn’t legal, though, it allows for more situations involving people being forced into prostitution, where it instead could foster an environment in which people choosing to go into prostitution could do so under safe conditions. I read about legal brothels which provide testing for STDs for both clients and staff, provide condoms, conduct background checks, have managers rather than pimps, and set up alarm bells for sex workers in the case of a client becoming abusive.

In contrast to controlled environment such as these which would be safer for all parties involved, I’ve read that STDs are on the rise in Korea, which can partly be attributed to a lack of sex education. There are also issues of women from other Asian countries being forced into the sex trade by being promised modelling or waitressing jobs in South Korea, and upon arriving, experience having their passports taken from them by their agents, and in turn are forced into sex work. The point of all of this is, if Korea is going to have such a rampant sex industry which the Korean government is doing nothing to stop, apart from stigmatizing it by outlawing it and protecting nobody from it, the government should at least take steps towards making the industry a safer place for women to work.

No? I don’t know. It’s a big topic to discuss. It’s a big industry, and the implications go beyond what’s happening in South Korea. I’m sure we’re going to get some people defending Korea and saying prostitution isn’t big here at all, it’s illegal and the law is strongly upheld, that they don’t know anyone who pays for sex, and it’s just Americans who come here to pay for sex and not Koreans, yada yada yada. We don’t know what to say to that, really, apart from basically pointing to what we’ve read and what we’ve seen, as well as what we’ve heard from our Korean friends who have opened up to us about the matter. Also, doing this topic was very worrisome for us, because we know that the topic of sex-working is a sensitive topic for some, and so we apologize if we used language here that people find offensive. We’re not up to date with the terminology and theories on the subject. We’re not passing judgment on anyone here. What we were only trying to do is to show how widespread prostitution is here in Korea, and how silly it is to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

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  1. INGMOVEMENT

    Video about sex trafficking in South Korea
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlSkXAv-5Wc

  2. Politically Incorect

    O.. yes . I have been to Korea. Pretending that Prostitution does not exists ?!! …Ooooo Koreans are very good on pretending ok . You want get some Korean pussy guys ,right ? Sure . Who does not want ? Brothels will try to charge more because you are a Foreigner ,specially if you are white . Mostly the owners are women . So no victims there .OK . And those women are assholes . The hypocrisy that is going on on Prostitution around the World right now is astonishing . The biggest liar and an Hypocrite is the United Nations and Ban Kim Moon close by second Obama the Feminist . We all know that . You can’t stop people for selling sex . Easy money , huge profits . Single moms making 500 $ a night ….who is the victim here ? A ? The poor constriction worker or the solder who work his ass off all day to pay for mediocre sex ,that’s who !!!

  3. Conner Fields

    So you wouldn’t start a conversation about the ethics of a single man (or woman) going to meet a sex worker, And the safety of sex work?

  4. Oh, go to Drama Fever. com they have documentaries on various subjects about sex in Korea. Though some are quite graphic. I stopped watching after the half of the 3rd video. I felt like I was watching porn instead of a documentary.

  5. The thing is, is it to surprising when S. Koreans have such a hush-hush attitude about sex. Not that sex education would make it better, but when you think of why they are getting married, it’s only for financial reasons and to have an heir. So basically they don’t have to have sex with their wives or girlfriends unless it’s for that reason. I think the women are the ones that limit sexual contact and so they seek it out elsewhere and since no one tries to have self control, then of course it’s out of control. I heard that they go to other countries and get the women pregnant, there was an article on it somewhere that there are 1,000s of babies in the Philippines or somewhere like that, that have Korean fathers.

  6. Lol these fkn clowns up here. Are you really fkn surprised that prostitution isn’t being challenged in south korea? Tell me which country i should go to where there isn’t such a thing a prostitution. is korea the only place in asia that you’ve ever been to? are you fkn kidding me? how bout the philippines? thailand? hong kong? japan? you fkn nerds literally have done absolutely nothing to help the situation.

  7. “According to the government-run Korean Institute of Criminology, one-fifth of men in their 20s buy sex at least four times a month” I agree that sex industry is huge in Korea, but is it a realistic number? the figure doesn’t seem plausible at all.

  8. Impeding Lies

    Legalization has not worked well in the countries it has been introduced. The Nordic Model on the sex industry is the way to go. Women do not exist as capital. Money does not equal consent. http://www.equalitynow.org/sites/default/files/Nordic_Model_EN.pdf

  9. I saw one of those “Kiss Rooms” near my old university in Sinchon and wondered what it was… As I type this it occurs to me that “Kiss Bang” is an amusing play on words. It was on the top floor of a six or seven story building in a night life district. There are also a few other forms of prostitution that you didn’t mention in your video or write up… The first is a certain kind of secretary that doesn’t exactly have any administrative duties. A lot of college girls sign up for this. There’s also “foreign entertainers” (they actually have a visa for this) which, rather than being used mostly for TV actors, is typically used for foreign women to privately entertain powerful men in various industries. Finally, I’ve heard about “Coffee Girls,” although I’ve never actually seen them, apparently it is a delivery service… you pay about 200,000 won for a cup of coffee, and a hot girl delivers and stays a while.

  10. Jaylah Young

    I left a comment on your tldr about drugs in korea lol

  11. Kimorimiki

    this was only surprising to me becasue i didnt hear opf it until i click your video…but still they are grown men they should do what they want..i meant se7en and his girl wasnt even together any more so hey….uh…YOLO…

  12. Jeff Weber

    Not so edgy but totally practical TLDR topic: If Koreans are obsessed with being skinny, then what about exercising in Korea. Do people use gyms and what are they like? Is yoga a thing, are there team sports for adults, etc.?

  13. wuxiagirl

    Could you guys do a tldr especially on the “sunbae” pressuring thing and the “group mentality” thing that you guys mentioned at the very end? I study in china where there are a lot of koreans and experienced it firsthand myself, and it’s a very serious problem. I feel like most people aren’t able to do what they actually want but are always being pressured to just follow along with their sunbaes. I feel really strong about it and would like to hear more about what you guys think about it.

  14. chuckthegirl

    South Korean men are also the biggest purchasers of sex in Southeast Asian countries. And they don’t just pay for sex from women. Children, girls AND boys, are used frequently. This is a dark spot on South Korea. I don’t think legalizing it will make things better though it being illegal and not enforced isn’t good either. Saying making it legal so it would be safer is like saying abortion being legal is safer, in my opinion. Anyone heard of the Gosnell trial? Yeah, abortion isn’t safe. The only way for this to stop is a break through of freedom through Jesus. And I know many people on here will probably disagree with me, but that’s what I think. The sex trade problem runs deeper than just people paying for sex. It becomes an addiction in the same way alcohol, gambling, and drugs – to name a few – become an addiction. There can be MANY underlying factors why people purchase sex; the focus should eventually go into meeting these needs to stop the outcome of sex solicitation.

  15. i want to know about sasaeng fans. i’ve been reading articles about some
    things that have happened with different k-pop groups and i want to
    know what people are doing about them. like is anyone trying to stop
    them at all? AND WHERE ARE THE PARENTS!? i’m really concerned about it
    because of some of the articles i read about them like when an Exo fan
    purchased the same van as them and Luhan almost got in and also the
    rioting at Changsha Airport when Exo arrived. i just recently heard of
    these “fans” and i’m surprised about what these people so and it really
    concerns me. to be honest as i’m actually scared to go to k-pop concerts
    now because i know that there will be sasaengs there and i know that
    they will threaten and hurt regular fans as well as the idols. i want to
    know what people are doing about it. PLEASE CAN YOU GUYS TALK ABOUT
    THIS!?

  16. Hmm, I’d say prostitution is undesirable, whether conducted in a ‘safe’ manner or not.

  17. Hi Simon and Martina! I was wondering if Korean police officers are useless, I know it may seem like a stupid question, but in most dramas or movies that I watch, police officers seem really useless. Thanks!

  18. This got me really curious wondering how a foreigner can be polite but also not be taken advantage of when it comes to this type of hierarchy of respect in South Korea. Like Simon and Martine said people to tend to blame superiors when something goes wrong or something that is not seen as socially acceptable happens but if they refuse they are guilt tripped or cast out? I know they covered mannerisms and tips tricks briefly about to get around no coming off as rude in the certain situations but does it get trickier when it comes to foreigners?

  19. Lynnette Bates

    Speaking of police stations being right next to a red light district… When I was in Japan a couple years ago, one of the university students hanging out with us wanted to take us to a particular Izakaya (Japanese-style restaurant), but we had to go near Kabuki-cho (the red light district of Tokyo) to get there. I kid you not, we walked right THROUGH the red light district to get to the Kouban (or mini-police station) at the END OF THE STREET to ask for directions.

  20. Billie Christine Beckstead

    I would like to know about piercings in Korea. Is it taboo to have several ear piercings? What about facial piercings?

  21. Jonathan Fink

    So I recently read an article about how Korean fans or K-fans discriminate against international fans aka I-fans. Seeing as you two live In S. Korea and are immerse by Korean K-pop fans, do you think their is some sort hatred or dislike toward intl fan?

    PS- I love you guys!!

  22. The Grand Narrative is a very helpful blog which talks about gender issues in Korea. One post, which is quite old (from January 2010), talks about prostitution in Korea: http://thegrandnarrative.com/2010/01/20/korea-sex-marriage-prostitution/

  23. Cheyenne_Lin

    hi simon and martina :D also, if you could do a tldr on what would be a koreans dream life would be. like what is the ideal life an average korean person wishes to have? kind of like what people would view the american dream as.

  24. Cheyenne_Lin

    hi simon and martina!!!!!!!!!!!!! i was wondering if you could please do a tldr on things that you find unnerving in korean culture. i love korea and respect the country so much but there are parts of the culture that make me take a step back and think. such as blackface. i just found out about it and i was shocked. i understand why they think its funny but do they understand how offensive it is? as a big fan of kpop and all things korean, call me american but this just really concerns me.

  25. I guess all that is left is to ask if there is beastiality in Korea. Please don;t tell me that there are pet shops where you can pet the animals and, for a little more…

  26. Esther Lee

    Simon and Martina! please do a TL:DR on plastic surgery in Korea! It’s so popular and well known in Korea but you guys haven’t touched this topic yet! Tell us the extent of its popularity, reasons why you think its is especially popular in Korea and your personal view on plastic surgery!

  27. IndecisiveKPOPer

    I thought Happy Ending Massage Parlours were a place where people were brought in that were dying & they got a massage until they died, thus dying happily…….

  28. kpopwillneverstop

    Thanks for the TL;DR on this subject. Regarding strip clubs, I know I read on a foreigner teaching in Korea that he asked his korean friend and his korean friend said that they do have strip clubs but they’re exclusively for korean men only. He also stated that foreign strippers do work there as well with most of them being Russians.

  29. Hi Simon & Martina. I live in Edmonton,AB. I hate to pop ur bubbles but we have ‘illegal/legal’ prostitution here as well – a lot of it. The city grants business licences to studio operators and ladies wanting to ‘work’ at a studio have to provide a clean criminal record check to the city licensing office, pay a fee, take a 2 hour ‘safety course’ and provide the address of the licensed studio where she will be working. It’s a serious money maker for the city of Edmonton (licensing fees are due annually). Studios are restricted to certain zoning areas and many are alongside average businesses. Some studios have been in one location for upwards of 20 years. Members of vice check in at the studios once every couple of months to make sure licenses are up to date and ‘sniff’ around for potential drug use which is highly discouraged. Studios operate under strict ‘bylaws’ that enforce hours of operation and other things (of course the bylaws don’t exist on the books because what would average joe citizen have to say if they only knew the reality?)

    As you say is true in South Korea, some of the signage makes it clearly obvious as to what goes on inside. One thing that can NOT be used in signage or advertising is the word “massage”. That was recently added to the ‘bylaws’ that don’t exist. Studios can advertise in local newspapers if they provide their business license number and even include the staff ‘names’ but must also print each personal license number beside their working name.

    I can hear you gasping for breath and it’s funny because I can only imagine you’re thinking “Edmonton!” I should point out that the same system (pretty much) with perhaps different bylaws exists in Toronto. Yeah.

    I can say this: Any man going to a studio for a happy ending is almost certain to not get in trouble with the law, as long as he’s going to a studio that has been around for awhile. There are about 60 studios in the city at any given time, 30 might be ‘fly by night’ unlicensed and totally illegal. Trouble can be found there. Of the extra 30, about 15 are ‘overlooked’ with ‘good reputations’ while 15 others might go through periods of stress if they have ‘bad’ clients or workers who bring trouble in the doors.

    Anyhow, just thought I’d share.

    PS. Thanks for all you’ve done for me, it’s a long story but just so you know, you got me through a hell of a year.

  30. LongClawTiger
    LongClawTiger

    The talk about those little cards reminded me of Las Vegas. Walking down the main strip, there were guys standing around about every 10 to 20 feet pushing cards like that on every guy that walked by. Even if the guy was obviously part of a couple they would push a card at you and tell you to bring your girlfriend too!

  31. I found this topic really surprising. I have been living in korea for about a year now (as a student) and spend most of my time with the physical education department since I’m on the volleyball team there. The idea that 1 in 5 of my guy friends could be visiting a brothel regularly is really… strange. Something I have noticed here (at least among the college crowd) is that relationships are really really really important, or so it seems. Everyone seems to either be in a relationship or actively trying to get into one. I have also heard from ma~any friends (both girls and boys) that its not uncommon to wait 6 months to a year before they have sex in the relationship (though I have some friends in relationships who are different of course). Do you think these trends are some of the causes of the rampant sex industry?

  32. Monika Zubkiewicz
    Monika Zubkiewicz

    Could you do a TLDR on plastic surgery? I know South Korea has posters advertising it a lot, a lot of stars do it and people in general whether it be head to toe or just double eyelid. Thanks! :] (oooh you so nastyyyy ;])

  33. knowing eyk

    Very interesting topic. I remember watching your early videos that Martina mentioned that some people ask her if She was “Russia saram” and I read in other articles that a lot of foreign prostitutes were from Russia, is that correct?

  34. I’d really love a TL;DR on your tattoos. I always catch little blurry glimpses of them, and I know Martina touched on one of hers in her drawing video but, if anything, that made me even more curious! Can you show us what they all are and explain the stories behind them please?

  35. Hi Simon and Martina! My question is, have you guys ever tried bargaining or haggling with vendors at street markets? Also, have you guys experienced price discrimination or been ripped off? I would love to hear stories. :)

  36. kimicheal

    Definitely agree that prostitution exist in Korea as well as various types of places for sexual encounter. However, I disagree with the statement that 20% of Korean men engage in prostitution without reliable statistical ( quantitative) research. This generalization condemns any age group of korean males for world audience (viewed via YouTube and this site). Having lived in Korea from 2002 to 2011, I do not recall my Korean male friends engaged in prostitution. As a Korean-American, prior to my experience living in Korea ((and married to the best Korean woman) and knowing all my Korean friends) I would be damn prejudice to make friends with Korean males, after watching this video. I do like your other videos ( with humor and personal experience). Although this topic needs to be exposed about Korean culture, using statistics without qualification does more harm to individuals within a culture from individuals who form a negative bias from this generalizes statistical video without interacting with Korean man or culture.

  37. Definitely agree that prostituition ( along with other hubs for sexual opportunities exist) is a fact in Korean culture like other countries. However I would be careful using statistics to generalize the extent of individuals engaged in this act. Stating that 20% of korean men engage in prostitution, without a direct supporting evidence (I.e., two or more collaborating quantative references) can prejudice individual’s concept of Korean men and culture. I have lived in Korea from 2002 to 2011 and I don’t recall none of my male friends (who work in various types of company) engaged in prostitution. Although your video has a great intention (like the other videos which are well presented and humorous) to inform about Korean culture and your experience, topics like prostituition should be carefully thought through before creating a negative bias of Korean men for the world audience.

  38. dekonmaru

    Wow, it’s really interesting to hear about all of this. I had no idea!

  39. Christina Spaulding

    Can you guys possibly talk about nerdy/geek culture in korea? How popular are anime, Harry Potter, sci-fi, cosplaying, and things of that sort? Are there any big conventions that would be worth going to?

  40. Ohhhh my.

    Sooooo I have a question. For one of your TLDRs or some other category could you talk a bit about korean oldies music? Maybe on a K indie segment? I’m just really a fan of 60-80s music and would love to explore korean music from then as well (my korean friends tell me the songs are much easier to learn korean from).

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