View Full Version : Prostitution in South Korea

01-08-2009, 07:18 PM
Wasn't shocked by this, I've heard about it from folks before. In fact, I was told by a Army medical officer that when he was in Korea (a few years ago), he told Soldiers in his BN that they were "better off" having sex with Korean prostitutes than female soldiers on the base, because the prostitutes had a overall lower percentage of STDs.

Ex-Prostitutes Say South Korea and U.S. Enabled Sex Trade Near Bases

Published: January 7, 2009

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has railed for years against the Japanese government’s waffling over how much responsibility it bears for one of the ugliest chapters in its wartime history: the enslavement of women from Korea and elsewhere to work in brothels serving Japan’s imperial army.
Now, a group of former prostitutes in South Korea have accused some of their country’s former leaders of a different kind of abuse: encouraging them to have sex with the American soldiers who protected South Korea from North Korea. They also accuse past South Korean governments, and the United States military, of taking a direct hand in the sex trade from the 1960s through the 1980s, working together to build a testing and treatment system to ensure that prostitutes were disease-free for American troops.
“Our government was one big pimp for the U.S. military,” one of the women, Kim Ae-ran, 58, said in a recent interview.


In one of the most incendiary claims, some women say that the American military police and South Korean officials regularly raided clubs from the 1960s through the 1980s looking for women who were thought to be spreading the diseases. They picked out the women using the number tags the women say the brothels forced them to wear so the soldiers could more easily identify their sex partners.

If the military did attempt to medically "screen" prostitutes that soldiers would pick up, is that a bad thing? Sounds like force protection. Soldiers are Soldiers. Some of them choose to buy sex. That was (is) going to happen; might as well try and protect them from disease.

It has been clear for decades that South Korea and the United States military tolerated prostitution near bases, even though selling sex is illegal in South Korea.

Because I don't know, was "purchasing services" from a prostitute illegal for U.S. troops? Was there UCMJ action if they were caught? What is the policy now? I can't imagine it was encouraged, but most certainly tolerated. The allegations end after the 1980s. What changed in the 90s?

Not sure if similar situations have occured in other countries we have bases in; Japan, Germany, Italy, etc. I know that when I was in Iraq, we had a squad in our company that was frequenting a known brothel in a kurdish neighborhood (in our CO AO). I know that the chain of command stepped in and the SL was severly reprimanded, IIRC. Not quite the same thing, since it was a combat zone.

Ken White
01-08-2009, 08:52 PM
Based on a tour there in 59-60 and another in the 70s. jkm_101-fso asked:
Because I don't know, was "purchasing services" from a prostitute illegal for U.S. troops? Was there UCMJ action if they were caught? What is the policy now? I can't imagine it was encouraged, but most certainly tolerated. The allegations end after the 1980s. What changed in the 90s?No, not illegal and the degree of encouragement was unit specific and varied. For the most part it was discouraged, some times strongly, sometime less so but generally it was resignedly tolerated. I don't think it was ever encouraged during the period I was there, off and on from 1950-1975 -- though the troops certainly knew there were no penalties unless one made a bad mistake and got a SOFA charge or got caught in an off limits establishment or location.

In the 1950s, the villages were theoretically off limits and thus, sex was strongly discouraged; by 1975 the villages were on limits for passes but most units encouraged troops to not go to the villages (with little success).

No idea what the rules are today...

01-08-2009, 08:53 PM
My days with the UNC north of Freedom Bridge (1980) were strict, but often forgiving. So long as we didn't get into fights with the 2nd ID (almost a daily activity), we could contract and be fixed with little more than 30 days grounded at base. Since we were at a minimum of 70 percent strength at all times, most of us could barely get off base more than once a month anyway... so, we could have cared less about the SGM's punishments.

Back then the KATUSA medics checked most of the bars we frequented, and the locals often complied with medical check ups.

Back to your original subject - during trips to the 2nd to use their firing ranges, we often RON'd on base. I would have thought that purchasing services was already distant from Army regs, but what took place on base was ghastly in comparison. I certainly hope that situation has long been rectified.

01-08-2009, 09:16 PM
In the early 1990's outside of Yongsan, about 1/2 the bars were, I'm pretty sure, brothels. It was quite annoying, actually, figuring out which were actually bars and which were for paying for very high priced shots of whiskey. In the latter part of the 90's in Pusan, most of the prostitutes I saw were Russians. In fact, every port we went in had Russian prostitutes (including the UAE).

I've don't recall ever being told before a port call, tdy or deployment that purchasing sex would be a UCMJ offense - Like my superiors did for me, I advised my subordinates that if they were going to do that sort of thing to be smart about it. Of course, we always got the "slide show" with graphic examples of what STD's could do. That was always enough to deter me, even if I was inclined to engage such services. :D

01-08-2009, 09:17 PM
Soldiers visiting prosititutes and the governments involved turn a blind eye. I'm sorry, when in the past three thousand years are we discussing?

A government encourages ladies of negotiable affection to bring their trade to soldiers station in their country. Again, this is supposed to be shocking or surprising?

Someone needs to point out to this reporter that Ibrahim Rugova wanted to base Kosovo's economy on hosting NATO soldiers...

01-20-2009, 04:08 AM
The Army used to tacitly support prostitution in Korea with health checks and such; however, USFK is proactive in fighting prostitution.

01-21-2009, 05:15 AM
Being, more than likely, the person on this board with the most recent tour (2004-06 JSA-UNCSB, and 2ID) in Korea I can tell you that the recent trend since the mid to late 90's has been to discourage soldiers from engaging in pay-for-sex. But of course soldiers will be soldiers, and a lot do.

Trying to be as clear and concise about this subject, and knowing I'm a bad writer and conveyor of stories I'll stay true to the tried and tested format of bullet points.

1. Prostitution around bases

a. Not Koreans, in 2004 there where Russians as well as Filipinos, but by 2005 the Russians where gone (we believed they where forced out because they kept on bringing the Russian mob to Korea).

b. Reduced extremely during my tour there, at first there was quite a number of such bars with "juicy girls" but by the time I left there number had drastically reduced due to post commanders making them off limits until they had changed their business practices. Mind you they still have "Juicy Girls" but they stopped the sexual practices.

2. Korean Law on prostitution

a. It was not illegal until 2005, but it was never legal. When the law went into effect to legally ban prostitution there was a huge protest by prostitutes and brothel business persons in Seoul.

3. Koreans and Prostitution

a. Korean prostitutes did exist, and still do, but their clientele is 90+% Korean, and of the other 10% Expats are the majority. These places are in the majority, the even have special "Clubs" around Seoul's governmental buildings (politicians need a way to relax after a hard days paper pushing).

4. Korean society and pointing the finger

a. Having spent my fair share of time in Korea socializing with the locals instead of staying around post, as well as being of Korean descent myself I can tell you Koreans love pointing fingers at other people for problems they caused themselves. All you have to do is look at the recent "American Beef Scandal" where no one caught any disease, or got sick from American beef, but still protested it's import because of the possibility. At the same time 2 Koreans died from Chinese milk and not a word was said. Certain segments of Koreans love hating on Americans almost as much as they love hating on the Japanese.

b. Speaking of fingers and prostitution, one of the Korean "Comfort Women" cut her finger off in protest in front of the Japanese embassy.

C. If you don't think the Koreans are crazy just remember one drunk Korean burnt down the #1 historical landmark in the country because he was mad at the government over something that was his fault.