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Prostitution in South Korea

July 11, 2013


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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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