Friday, May 27, 2011

Prostitution in Korea and in the US

Let me start by saying that prostitution is illegal in South Korea. That being said, it flourishes more or less out in the open, or at least thinly veiled. There are those who claim that many - or even most - Korean men regular visit prostitutes [see here, and be sure to read through the comments section, too], while there are plenty of Koreans who dispute that claim.

Recently an American man currently living and working here in Korea told me that he visits prostitutes, and that he does so regularly. This person (and let's call him 'John') is a decently attractive, educated, intelligent young man, who holds a good job and who speaks Korean quite well. In theory, he should have no trouble finding a girlfriend (and he has had girlfriends in the past)... and yet come to find out, he has been going down to the local red-light district at least once a week for sex for months now.

When I first learned of John's habit, I was fascinated. Disgusted, but fascinated. I pumped him for information. One of the details he shared was the fact that he has a favorite prostitute. He even said something along the lines of “I could see myself becoming addicted to her.” Yet when I asked, “What’s her name?” he replied with obvious scorn, “I don’t know her name, she’s a hooker!” That is the exact moment in time when I lost all respect I ever held for John, and when disgust trumped fascination. He went on to joke that she had moved to this city from another one in Korea 'for work' - laughing that surely her line of work was available in her hometown. Ugh.

Women who become prostitutes don't do it because they love sex. They don't do it because they want "easy" money. They do it because they are desperate. They do it because they have no other options. More often than not, they are coerced or forced into the business. Many do it to feed drug addictions - addictions fostered in many cases by pimps in order to make them more pliable. No little girl says she wants to be a prostitute when she grows up.

I have posted articles about prostitution - especially articles concerning forced prostitution and human trafficking - on my website, blogs, and facebook for years... although I have to admit that I've been doing so somewhat more frequently since learning of John's habit. He is my facebook friend, and part of me hopes that one day *something* I post will resonate within him.

I recently read (and then posted on facebook) an incredibly disturbing article on human trafficking and forced prostitution of American women and girls within US borders. This is something that Americans like to believe happens only to poor women from third world countries - yet it happens all across the United States.
CLICK HERE to read the article. I thought the facebook comments (sadly, none from 'John') were worth posting, too:


Just minutes after reading this article, I opened up itunes and updated my podcasts... and found that I had downloaded an episode of NPR's Talk of the Nation entitled John School Teaches About Ills Of Sex Solicitation [click here to listen]. I admit that I was expecting the John School to be a lengthy process, during which johns would be forced to read articles such as this over and over, to confront the heinousness of their acts, and to view prostitutes as real people. I was incredibly disappointed to discover that instead, John School seems more like a get-out-of-jail-free pass. Not only is it a mere eight hours long, but there is scant focus on seeing the women as people. While the johns do meet with a former prostitute (one currently involved in the fantastic, albeit small, recovery program at Magdalene/Thistle Farms), the rest of this "school" involves explaining things like the risks of STD transmission, the damage that being arrested can do to your future, and how to get one's record expunged. Yeah. Attending John School gets one's record expunged. Granted, John School is only an option for those arrested for solicitation for the the first time (I will not call them 'first time offenders' because I doubt that they were caught the first time they went looking to buy sex), but it still bugs me that they get off basically scot free.
I posted this link to facebook, and these were the comments. I hope John saw them:


1 comment:

Diana E.Sung said...

Oh my god. This is... I have no words. Knowing/speaking to someone so open about his frequenting of prostitutes is mindblowing. His attitude towards is just... weird. For an American.