Sam Halverson’s 6th comment to Ethics Alarms is a Comment of the Day, and a fascinating one. It comes in response to Item #2 in the 1/14/18 Warm-up, which involved the seemingly endless argument between South Korea and Japan over the Korean women forced be sex slaves by their Japanese captors during World War II. One of the pleasure of operating this blog is that its readers teach me so much. This is a prime example.
Here is the Comment of the Day by Sam Halverson on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 1/14/18: Comfort Women, Presidential Health Lies, Pit Bulls And No “Goodbye Columbus”…Yet
Let start this comment by saying; this is not what it looks like.
My dog (a mutt, maybe a little bull terrier, who knows?) is not in this fight between Japan and the Republic of Korea. To categorize it as a fight probably isn’t correct either as the facts have been settled and there has obviously been a huge evil committed by Japan against the people of Korea, one I am not writing this to convince anyone of anything but rather to inform people of something they may not of known before hand. Whataboutism this is not, anger, disgust and a bit of shame it is.
Everyone loves a hypocrite; watching someone fall always delight the side of us that craves spectacle and someone who betrays themselves only raises the precipice higher. Which is why I want to talk about the massive human trafficking problem that goes on in The Republic of Korea.
The Korean people are polite. They do not talk about scandalous things in public, not with strangers and definitely not with foreigners. They would rather ignore a problem in their polite society than admit it exists. Getting an average South Korean to self criticize the culture is like pulling teeth and just as likely to end in blood loss.
For example, it is a blatantly open secret that while prostitution is illegal (as well as pornography) in Korea, it is rampant. There are literal whorehouses that display their wares in the open on the street behind pink curtains and glass walls, police walk by without comment. These are known as “glass houses” and the implied metaphor for the country is apt.
While the Korean government is chastising the Japanese for refusing to apologize for atrocities committed over half a century ago, they are practicing the very same evils today.
Every year an unknown number of women are forced into prostitution and domestic servitude on a country that is rated as a TIER I nation on the U.S. Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, TIER I being reserved that nation’s that comply with international laws on human trafficking.
I wonder if South Korea is afforded leniency because of it’s strategic position in advancing US interests in the region, a reclassification would bring sanctions and weaken US Korean relations. I can personally tell you that that status is crap, unlike the US where human trafficking is hidden behind closed doors there it is as mentioned visible from the street.
How do I know? I was stationed at Camp Hovey, South Korea for a period of one year while serving in the army as an 11B. It’s a smaller camp connected to Camp Casey which is one of the largest and furthest north of the primary American installations. I was stationed there in 2010 and witnessed this with my own eyes. Comfort women still exist, but they are being sold willingly by the Korean public to friends not Invaders.
There in lies my feeling of shame. At both gates of the camp I was stationed at, Toekieri and Ville outside the main gate, by the time you finished whistling the stars and stripes you can find yourself in a whorehouse, literally an entire street full of them. Everyone, and I mean pretty much everyone gave these “Juicy Bars” (named for drinks you buy the girls inside to accumulate points) their patronage. I have seen everyone from a private to a full bird colonel in these places, and while they might not have been paying for sex at the time, their dollars were still supporting the same criminal groups who run the whole scheme. I saw some other soldiers who posted about being in Korea and they will understand, after all Osan AFB is only a 20 minute train ride away from Itaewon and the notorious hooker hill. I know because I spent money in the same bars, I talked to the same girls and I didn’t say or do anything. It was a mass rationalization; if everyone’s doing it, then it can’t be wrong, can it? It can and there’s no one else responsible but us.
The women who are employed at these bars are mostly foreigners, not like the poor Korean farm girls who staff the brothels that the utilize. Korean culture regards outsiders as less than real people, especially those from Central and Southeast Asia. These girls are sent to work with foreigners in the “Special tourist zones”, so that Korean women do not have to. They we’re mostly Filipinas when I was there, but they came in waves, Russians, Czech, Thais, different faces, same story. In the beginning it was Korean women as well, though that stopped being the case when the Korean economy expanded and they could afford to import cheap forced labor to replace them.
The women’s (and men’s, lots of crossdressers) stories usually begin in their home countries where they are approached by “talent agent” that promises them a great job. Musician, chef, hostess, it doesn’t matter what they are looking for the young, the poor and the desperate. Once flown to Korea, usually illegally by way of Hong Kong, they are headed into a room where their new “managers” bid for their contracts from the coyotes. Like cattle they are evaluated and the skilled ones are sent to be domestic servants while the pretty end up worker for mob underlings at the sex bars. Bused to their new home, their passports and visas are taken from for “safekeeping” and they are given new, clothes, a phone and rent. Of course they have to pay it back, which keeps them indebted and they face a three-month probation where their pay is stopped. If they do not bring in enough pay, they are forced to pay penalties, which is to have sex with customer for higher fees. If they try to run away, without their bosses endorsement they would be arrested and without the money to pay for a plane trip home are left to rot in prison.
It is a vile system and you can call them nothing but by what, slaves. They are all desperately poor and have no other means to support their families so the compulsion is there. They are often exposed to both violence and sexual abuse from their bosses and customers. The police do not care as they turn a blind eye to all things. They live multiple girls in a single room and share beds. They are not allowed to leave the apartment except while, working, once a month for a free day, or while with a client. In short it is a miserable existence. Of course there is plenty of other exploitation going on, factory work being the biggest among them, but this isn’t he most foul.
The United States Army’s and PACCOMs official status on human trafficking is zero tolerance, you have to take a course in “Combating Human Trafficking” before you even set foot on the peninsula. This is a joke. They don’t care at all. If a complaint is issued, they sometimes blacklist the bar, until it changes its name a week later and reopens, with the same girls and the same practices firmly in place. I always speculated when I was over there that someone high up at the Garrison and maybe even divisional level was taking kickbacks from the mob. I don’t know, but what is even more pathetic is that the Korea mafia reaches across both sides of the DMZ. Or maybe it was because if they prosecuted every soldier who ever supported human trafficking, myself included, there would be no one left.
This is a shame on the U.S. Military, the Republic of Korea and myself.
Hopefully one day this will all change and all parties involved will realize how stupid they were. Slavery was pushed back once before, why couldn’t it be again. Though honestly I doubt it, they are far away and our ugliness at home is hidden enough for us to remain comfortable. I guess after all it’s easier to demand an apology for an ancient evil than to actually fight one that you can prevent today.
If you’re wondering if I have a personal stake in this, I met my wife in Korea. She had run away from all this and was technically on the lam. I bought her ticket home and we kept in touch, got married a few years later. Going on 4 years now. That’s why I’m so angry, though even more so I feel guilt that I was a part it, even indirectly.