A Brief Overview of the Korean Sex Industry


written by gkim

Sex trafficking is a problematic franchise in Korea that is challenging in the way that it effectively functions within the country and continues externally outside of its borders into every Korean community in the world. In Korea, one majority of sex trafficked victims are child runaways who have been physically or sexually abused as well as those who are looking to liberate themselves from the intense Korean academic system they have been a part of. The other majority are workers who have been lured within, into, and out of the country with false advertisements of decent jobs. Traffickers utilize the internet to prey on and manipulate vulnerable children and teenagers as well as those seeking employment—both girls and women–all of whom are desperately seeking a way out of their undesirable situations. Victims are targeted through networking sites, blogs, job sites, and online gaming sites. Once they have been trafficked, they are forcefully placed into room salons (“refined” Korean brothels with caste systems and tiers), the porn industry, massage parlors, red light district alleyways, underground sex houses, call girl businesses, or image clubs (fetish clubs with rooms furnished and decorated by themes such as hospital rooms, school classrooms, subway cars, dental offices, movie theaters, parks, etc…) throughout Korea, other Asian countries, and America. Although, many females are initiated and barricaded into the sex industry through violence, another common method used by pimps in Korea is to manipulate the victims using high debt accruals as these pimps are fully aware that most of these victims have come from desperate financial situations. In brothels such as a room salon, there are many rooms, usually without windows or with completely tinted windows. These room salons are heavily guarded. In each room is a karaoke machine attached to a television screen, soft bench-like seating built into three parts of the room, a large table in the middle, and a restroom with a toilet and sink in a tiny closet of a space. The room salon females are subjected to being treated like cattle where they are presented to customers in groups and chosen upon their appearance. They are actually dressed elegantly and forced to make daily trips to stylists who work with the room salons to do professional hair and makeup. All clothing and styling are added on to their debts. Also, the women are forced to dance with, sing to, feed, pour drinks, and drink excessive amounts of alcohol with the customers. Basically, they must cater to every whim of the customer and be completely compliant with their demands or face repercussions such as severe physical or sexual violence. Threatening to expose them as prostitutes to their families or harm their family members are also common techniques used by the pimps. It is not uncommon for pimps to train room salon women to provide atypical, perverse, and deviant entertainment for customers. Women who become pros are then forced to train other women as well. The women are also subjected to men violating them in the rooms with other people around as the men usually come together in groups and share the room together. Sex does not usually occur inside the actual room salons however if customers request sex, these women are sold by the pimps and madams of the room salons into sex houses and lovetels (motels that rent rooms by the hour for sex) after the room salons close. The women who are most desired and most frequently visited are given preferential treatment by their pimps over the ones who are less popular. The goal of these pimps is to crush the spirits of these women so that they become more and more deviant. These women begin suffering from depression, anxiety, and shame so become extremely dependent on alcohol and cigarettes–vices that are supplied by the room salons as long as customers continue to pay. Because of the resemblance these room salons have to karaoke rooms, they are easily disguised in Korea and America.

Women who are trafficked into massage parlors, red light district alleyways, sex houses, and the porn industry are not always mandated to drink as room salon workers are. However they are forced to have sex with five to twenty men in one day. Pimps train women who are then forced to train other women on how to deal and service customers properly. Condom usage is not always enforced so male customers always have the option to refuse a condom making the female workers more susceptible to diseases and in many cases unwanted pregnancies. Female contraceptives are not promptly provided for these forced sex workers so often abortions are secretly performed in small clinics where identification is not required as abortions are illegal in South Korea. Even if a woman wanted to keep the baby, there are no centers where services are offered to care for the mothers and newborn babies who come from these situations. The trafficked women in these types of outlets are monitored at all times even when they are given time off. Pimps and traffickers work together to keep a close watch and stronghold on their female captives by withholding identification cards, passports, and all family information such as home addresses, telephone numbers, and names. What sets the Korean sex industry apart from other Asian countries is that domestically, many children succumb to prostitution because of unbelievably intense academic and societal pressures coupled with lack of intervention and education from families, churches, and schools. In this way, direct recruitment activity by pimps is far less in number whereas actual grooming practices once the child has entered into the sex selling arena is much more common. However, on the international side, Korean traffickers prey on mostly women from poverty who are desperately seeking employment into or out of Korea.