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Prostitutes in South Korea for the U.S. military

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Title: Prostitutes in South Korea for the U.S. military  
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Subject: Prostitution in South Korea, Korean comfort women, Russia–South Korea relations, Philippines–South Korea relations, Chae Myung-shin
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Prostitutes in South Korea for the U.S. military

Prostitutes in South Korea for the U.S. military
Korean name
Hangul 위안부[1]
Hanja 慰安婦
Alternate Korean name
Hangul 양공주[1]
Hanja 洋公主

Prostitutes servicing members of the U.S. military in South Korea have been known locally under a variety of terms. Yankee princess (hangul: 공주 [2][3][4]—also translated as Western princess) is a common name and literal meaning for the prostitutes in the Gijichon, U.S. military Camp Towns,[1][5][6]) in South Korea.[7][8][9] Yankee whore ( Yanggalbo)[2] and Western whore are also a common name. The women are also referred to as U.N. madams (hangul: 유엔마담 ,[10][11] U.N. madam).[12] Juicy girls are the common name of Filipinas prostitutes.[13] The term "Western princess" has been commonly used in the press, such as The Dong-a Ilbo for decades.[7][14] On the other hand, it is also used as an insulting epithet.[15]

Until the early 1990s, the term Wianbu (hangul: 위안부 , "Comfort Women") was often used by South Korean media and officials to refer to prostitutes for the U.S. military,[16][17] but comfort women was also the euphemism used for the sex slaves for the Imperial Japanese Army,[18][19][20] and in order to avoid confusions, the term yanggongju replaced wianbu to refer to sexual laborers for the U.S. military.[1][21][22] The early 1990s also saw the two women's rights movements diverge: on one side the one representing the Cheongsindae (Comfort women for the Japanese military), and on the other side the movement representing the Gijichon (Camptown for the US military), even if some women happen to have been victim of forced labor on both sides.[23] Now some South Korean media use the term migun wianbu (미군 위안부, 美軍慰安婦 "US military comfort women"),[24][25] literally American Comfort Women.


Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency enforced registration of comfort women for UN forces under the Society Bureau's operation of "Management industry of venereal comfort women for UN forces". This registration was to permit domestic partnerships between foreigners and comfort women, without actually being legally-recognized marriages.-Dong-a Ilbo September 14, 1961.
North Korean nurses captured by South Korean and US soldiers. Captured North Korean women were sometimes raped.[26]

According to United States Forces Korea's policy, "Hiring prostitutes is incompatible with our military core values",[27] but in South Korea, most women who used to live around U.S. Army camps were prostitutes.[15] In the Allied-occupied Korea, between the 1950s and 1980s, the total number of women amounted to over one million.[1][5][28] Some women chose to become prostitutes.[29] Other women were coerced into prostitution.[30][31] Prostitutes for U.S. soldiers were esteemed to be at the bottom of the social hierarchy by South Koreans,[32] they were also lowest status within the hierarchy of prostitution.[33]

U.S. military and Syngman Rhee rule

In September 1945, United States Armed Forces occupied Korea, including Imperial Japanese comfort stations.[34] The women in comfort stations were also taken over.[5][34] In 1946, the United States Army Military Government in Korea outlawed prostitution in South Korea.[4][35]

Under US Military rule, Korean society treated prostitutes with humiliation that included stoning and cursing from children.[3] However, by 1953, the total number of prostitutes amounted to 350,000.[4][35] Between the 1950s and 1960s, 60 percent of South Korean prostitutes worked near U.S. military camps.[4][35] During the Korean War, it was the South Korean Army that controlled Wianbu units performing sexual services for United Nations and South Korean soldiers.[1][36] Throughout the Korean War, two separate types of comfort stations were operated.[37] One was U.N. Comfort Stations (UN위안소, UN慰安所) for UN peacekeeping units, and the other was Special Comfort Stations (특수위안소, 特殊慰安所) for soldiers of the Republic of Korea Army.[37] U.N. Comfort Stations were administered in collaboration with provincial governors, mayors and polices.[38] The majority of women working in U.N. Comfort Stations were married and supporting their families.[38] On the front lines, women were brought in by trucks without permission.[1]

Between 1951 and 1954, the women units were referred to as Special Comfort Units (특수위안대, 特殊慰安隊).[36][39] Some South Korean corps referred to the women as Class V supply,[1] because the South Korean Army had only up to Class IV supplies.[40] War History on the Home Front (후방전사, 後方戰史) published by the Republic of Korea Army in 1956, refers to the existence of the South Korean military's comfort women units.[36][39] General Chae Myung-shin, the South Korean Vietnam Expeditionary Forces Commanding Officer, also commented on the comfort women units during the Korean War in his memoir Beyond the Deadline (死線을 넘고넘어, 사선을 넘고넘어) published in 1994.[40] Chae says, "The adopting of the military comfort women system strengthened the morale of officers and soldiers, and prevented sexually transmitted infection. There was a viewpoint that the army internalized unlicensed prostitutes who were spreading in society and protected their human rights."[40] Chae also remarks, "I don't want to expose the military to dishonor, but I record these as the undeniable facts."[40]

Second Republic (1960–1961)

The Second Republic viewed prostitution as something of a necessity.[41] In 1960, lawmakers of the National Assembly urged the South Korean government to train a supply of prostitutes for U.S. soldiers to prevent them from spending their dollars in Japan.[41] Lee Seung-u, the deputy home minister, gave a response to the National Assembly that the government had made some improvements in the "Supply of Prostitutes" for American soldiers.[41]

Military government rule

Park Chung-hee (left) shakes hands with General Guy S. Meloy after the May 16 coup. Park helped to enforce the "Base Community Clean-Up Campaign".[42][43]

Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea during the 1960s and 1970s, and the father of incumbent president Park Geun-hye, encouraged the sex industry in order to generate revenue, particularly from the U.S. military.[44] Park seized power in the May 16 coup, and immediately enforced two core laws.[45] The first was the Prostitution Prevention Law, which excluded "camp towns" from the governmental crackdown on prostitution; the second was the Tourism Promotion Law, which designated camp towns as Special Tourism Districts.[45]

During the 1960s, camp town prostitution and related businesses generated nearly 25 percent of the South Korean GNP.[46] In 1962, 20,000 comfort women were registered.[1] The prostitutes attended classes sponsored by their government in English and etiquette to help them sell more effectively.[47] They were praised as "dollar-earning patriots" or "true patriots" by the South Korean government.[29][44][47] In the 1970s one junior high school teacher told his students that "The prostitutes who sell their bodies to the U.S. military are true patriots. Their dollars earned greatly contributes to our national economy. Don't talk behind their back that they are Western princesses or U.N. Madams."[10]

In 1971, the number of American soldiers was reduced by 18,000, due to the Nixon Doctrine.[48][49] On account of this, South Koreans were more afraid of the North Korean threat and its economic impact.[50] Even so, camp town prostitution had already become an important component of South Korean livelihood.[50] The advocacy group My Sister's Place wrote in 1991 that the American soldiers contributed 1 billion dollars to the South Korean economy which was 1% of the South Korean GNP.[51]

Despite this, there were issues of venereal disease and racist conflict. U.S. military personnel advised the South Korean government that the camp towns were breeding grounds for Sexually transmitted infections and places of racist discrimination.[23] The venereal disease ratio per 1,000 American soldiers rapidly increased, from 389 (in 1970), 553 (in 1971), and 692 (in 1972).[49]

Camp town clubs were separated for blacks and whites, and women were classified in accordance with the soldiers' race.[42] The residents near Camp Humphreys discriminated between African Americans and white Americans.[42] African American soldiers vented their anger against camp town residents.[42] On July 9, 1971, 50 African American soldiers provoked a riot against racist discrimination and destroyed some clubs near Camp Humphreys.[42] In turn, residents hunted down African American soldiers with sickles.[42] American military police and South Korean police quelled the rioters.[42]

In August 1971, the Secretary of Home Affairs Ministry, in cooperation with health authorities, gave orders to each police station to take precautions against sexually transmitted diseases, and instructing prostitutes about STDs.[48] On December 22, 1971, Park Chung-hee, the President of South Korea, enforced the Base Community Clean-Up Campaign.[42] The government educated women not to discriminate racially and banned clubs that posted segregationist signboards.[42]

The U.S. Military Police Corps and South Korean officials regularly raided prostitutes who were thought to be spreading disease, and would detain those thought to be ill, locking them up under guard in so-called "monkey houses" that had barred windows,[47] and the women were forced to take medications that were reported to make them vomit.[47] Women were certified to be without disease wore tags.[29] In the 1970s, U.S. military officials and South Korean bureaucrats discussed the matter of preventing epidemics and government efforts to register prostitutes and requiring them to carry medical certification.[41] The U.S. military issued and required the prostitutes who worked at clubs to carry Venereal Disease Cards, and also published a venereal disease guide to inform American soldiers patronizing bars.[52]

There are some accounts of U.S. soldiers attempting to address the prostitution problem to their commanders. One such account is the case of Lieutenant Douglas Gwinn, stationed at Camp Stanley, near Uijongbu, in 1984. 2LT Gwinn observed that at the on-post camp health facility, there was a list of thirty clubs that were located just outside the gate of Camp Stanley. The number of prostitutes for each club were recorded on this list which was updated daily, then it documented how many of the girls were positive for STDs or "clean." The women would regularly come on post to this facility for testing at the expense of the U.S. taxpayer. If a club had too many cases of STDs, that club would be placed off-limits, enforced by the Army MPs who patrolled the "Ville." 2LT Gwinn took this issue to his company commander, battalion commander, and then the DIVARTY Commander and asked that the clubs all be placed off-limits due to the immoral conduct which was "conduct unbecoming a United States soldier" and which impaired the combat-readiness of the Brigade which was within the Second Infantry Division. In the first two cases, the commanders agreed with LT Gwinn, but when he went to the Post Commander, he was told to mind his own business and "get back to work." However, major changes have taken place since the 1980s. Under current (2015) and recent (since the 1990s) policy, any club or bar having prostitutes is placed off limits by the Armed Forces Discipline Control Board (AFDCB) for the military area of Korea over which it is responsible. While individual cases do occur, the US military, together with the South Korean government, has worked with diligence to stamp out prostitution near US camps and bases; most prostitution has gone underground (as is the case in much of the US).

The South Korean government educated prostitutes who worked at the U.S. military camp in regard of preventing venereal disease. The South Korean bureaucrats educated that prostitution is an act of patriotism.[53] The bureacrats informed the prostitutes of their contribution to the development and security of South Korea when they serve the U.S. soldiers with a healthy and clean body along with cooperative attitudes. The former Chief Secretary of the Blue House who directed the Base Community Clean-up Campaign, educated the prostitutes to learn the spirit of prostitutes who served the U.S. military during 1945 in Japan.[54] The former presidential secretary for audit and inspection, Hong Jong-chul, attempted to make policies for the prostitutes in base communities such as building apartments for them.[53]

There are reports that some women were killed by soldiers or committed suicide.[29]

Post-military government rule

Warning of Prostitution and Human trafficking by United States Forces Korea
Dongducheon, where many "juicy bars" and clubs are situated near military bases.

During the early 1990s, the prostitutes became a symbol of South Korean anti-American nationalism.[55] In 1992, there were about 18,000 registered and 9,000 unregistered South Korean women around U.S. military bases.[56]

In 1992, Yun Geum-i, a prostitute in Dongducheon, was brutally killed by U.S. servicemen.[57][58] Yun was found dead with a bottle stuffed into her vagina and an umbrella into her anus.[59] In August 1993, the U.S. government compensated the victim's family with about US$72,000.[60] However, the murder of a prostitute did not itself spark a national debate about the prerogatives of the U.S. forces; on the other hand, the rape of a twelve-year-old Okinawan school girl in 1995 by U.S. Marines elicited much public outrage and brought wider attention to military-related violence against women.[58]

Since the mid-1990s, Russian, Uzbek, Kazakh, and Filipino women have worked as prostitutes in U.S. military camp towns in South Korea.[30][31][61] Reportedly, many of them were forced into prostitution.[30][31] Since the 2000s, the majority of prostitutes have been Philippine or Russian women; South Koreans have become less numerous.[7][62] Since the mid-1990s, foreigners make up 80–85 percent of the women working at clubs near military bases.[63] Between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s, nearly 5,000 women from Russia and the Philippines were smuggled into South Korea and forced into sexual slavery.[31]

On the other hand, South Korean prostitutes are still represented in large numbers. According to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, South Korean prostitutes numbered about 330,000 in 2002.[64] Most of these are not working near US bases, but operating on the local economy. In 2013, the Ministry estimated that about 500,000 women worked in the national sex industry.[44] The Korean Feminist Association estimates the actual number may exceed one million. According to the estimates up to one-fifth of women between the ages of 15 and 29 have worked in the sex industry.[44]

The South Korean government also admits sex trade accounts for as much as 4 percent of the annual gross domestic product.[44] In August 1999, a Korean club owner in Dongducheon was accused of trafficking in women by bringing more than 1000 Philippine and Russian women into South Korea for U.S. military bases, but a South Korean judge overturned the warrant.[65] In 2000, five foreign women locked in a brothel died in a fire in Gunsan.[5] In early 2002, 12 women died in a similar fire, also locked in a Gunsan pub.[5]

In 2002, Fox Television reported casing brothels where trafficked women were allegedly forced to prostitute themselves to American soldiers.[65] U.S. soldiers testified that the club or bar owners buy the women at auctions, therefore the women must earn large sums of money to recover their passports and freedom.[5] In May 2002, U.S. lawmakers asked U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for an investigation that "If U.S. soldiers are patrolling or frequenting these establishments, the military is in effect helping to line the pockets of human traffickers".[65]

In June 2002, the U.S. Department of Defense pledged to investigate the trafficking allegations.[65] In 2003, the Geneva.[31] The Philippine Embassy also joined the proceedings, making it the first embassy to take steps on behalf of its nationals.[66]

In the same year, the South Korean government completely discontinued issuing visas to Russian women, so prostitution businesses moved to bring in more Filipinas instead.[30][63] Human traffickers also brought in Russian women through sham marriages.[63] In 2005, Filipina and Russian women accounted for 90 percent of the prostitutes in U.S. military camp towns.[45] In 2005, Hwang Sook-hyang, a club owner in Dongducheon, was sentenced to a 10-month suspended sentence and 160 hours of community service on charges of illegal brothel-keeping.[68] The following civil trial sentenced him to compensate US$5,000 to a Philippine woman who was forced to have sex with U.S. soldiers between February 8 and March 3, 2004.[68] The Philippine woman was recruited by a South Korean company in the Philippines as a nightclub singer in 2004, then she and several Philippine women were locked inside Hwang's club and forced to have sex with U.S. soldiers.[68] The former "juicy bar" employees testified that soldiers usually paid US$150 to bring women from the bar to a hotel room for sex; the women received US$40.[69] Most juicy bars have a quota system linked to drink purchases.[69] Women who do not sell enough juice are forced into prostitution by their managers.[69]

In 2004, the U.S. Defense Department proposed anti-prostitution. A U.S. serviceman at Camp Foster (located on Okinawa) told a Stars and Stripes reporter that although prostitution was illegal in the United States, in South Korea, Thailand and Australia, it was "pretty open".[70] By 2009, the Philippine Embassy in South Korea had established a "Watch List" of bars where Philippine women were forced into prostitution and were considering sharing it with the U.S. military in hopes that U.S. commanders would put such establishments near bases off-limits to their troops.[71]

As of 2009, some 3,000 to 4,000 women working as prostitutes came annually from Southeast Asia, accounting for 90% of the prostitutes.[61] Despite prostitution being illegal in South Korea, camp towns were still practically exempted from crackdowns.[61]

In 2010, the United States Department of State, reported the predicament of women who worked at bars near U.S. military bases as one of ongoing human trafficking concerns in South Korea.[72] The Government of the Philippines stopped approving contracts that promoters used to bring Philippine women to South Korea to work near U.S. military bases.[73]

In 2011, the Eighth Army founded the Prevention of Sexual Assault Task Force; the task force assessed and reported the climate in South Korea regarding sexual assault among U.S. soldiers.[74] The report also described sexual assault which arose between a low-ranking female soldier who recently arrived on the Korean Peninsula and an older male officer.[74] According to Brigadier General David Conboy, the task force was not being formed in response to a single incident, but as a broader effort to study the unit's sexual assault prevention and response measures.[74] However, the report has yet to be approved.[74]

In 2012, a United States Forces Korea public service announcement clarified, "Right now, young women are being lured to Korea thinking they will become singers and dancers," and "Instead, they will be sexually exploited in order to support their families." The United States Forces Korea posted a video on YouTube, clarifying that "buying overpriced drinks in a juicy bar supports the human trafficking industry, a form of modern-day slavery."[72] However, some U.S. commanders continue to allow American soldiers to patronize the bars as long as they have not been caught directly engaging in prostitution or human trafficking.[75] Most recently, in June 2013, General Jan-Marc Jouas placed all juicy bars outside Osan Air Base off-limits for Seventh Air Force personnel. This change in policy resulted in three weeks of large scale protests in the local area, however, General Jouas credits this change in policy as resulting in most Juicy bars in the area closing down.[76][77][78]

On June 25, 2014 122 surviving Korean comfort women for the U.S. forces filed a lawsuit against their government to reclaim human dignity and won 10 million (US$9800) compensation per plaintiff. According to the claim, they were supervised by the U.S. forces and the South Korean government and South Korean authorities colluded with pimps in blocking them from leaving. The suit comes as an distraction for the South Korean government which has been claiming Japan hasn’t fully compensated women forced to serve as sex slaves for the imperial Japanese military.[79][80]

Women and offspring

The children born to American soldiers and South Korean prostitutes were often abandoned when soldiers returned to the U.S.[15] By the 1970s, tens of thousands of children had been born to South Korean women and American soldiers.[62] In South Korea, these children are often the target of racist vitriol and abuse, being called "western princess bastards" (Yanggongju-ssaekki), "darkies", or "niggers" (Kkamdungi).[2] It was difficult for South Korean prostitutes around the U.S. military bases to escape from being stigmatized by their society, thus their only hope was to move to the United States and marry an American soldier.[5] Trafficked Philippinas also had the same expectation.

Some American soldiers paid off the women's debt to their owners to free them in order to marry them.[5] However, most U.S. soldiers are unaware of the trafficking. Some soldiers have helped Philippine women escape from clubs.[65] In 2009, juicy bar owners near Grace M. Cho who was the daughter of a G.I. and a South Korean woman, was awarded the best 2010 book on Asia and Asian America by the American Sociological Association.[81][82]

A former South Korean prostitute said to The New York Times that they have been the biggest sacrifice of the Mutual Defense Treaty Between the United States and the Republic of Korea.[41] The women also see themselves as war victims.[46] They are seeking compensation and apologies.[47] Because of this tainted history, the primary stereotype that most South Koreans held of South Korean women who had copulated with white men or "crackers" ("Hindungi") was mainly negative.[15] Besides, the first transnational marriages were mostly between U.S. soldiers and Korean women who worked in U.S. military bases or who were camp prostitutes.[83] By 2010, more than 100,000 Korean women had married U.S. soldiers and moved to the United States.[81][82] South Korean women married to foreigners are often viewed as prostitutes.[33] Marriages between South Koreans and foreigners often carry a serious stigma in South Korean society.[83] A woman who is JoongAng Ilbo general manager's junior, married to a Spaniard, said that almost 100% of middle-aged South Korean men look her up and down when she walks hand in hand with her husband.[84]

In popular culture


The Evil Night (1952) and A Flower in Hell (1958) by Shin Sang-ok depict South Korean prostitutes.[85][86] Silver Stallion (1991) by Chang Kil-su depicts one prostitute symbolizing the raped nation of Korea.[32] Spring in My Hometown (1998) by Lee Kwang-mo depicts one prostitute waiting for her American lover who never returns.[32] Address Unknown by Kim Ki-duk depicts the lover of a prostitute who never returns to South Korea.[32]


The play Seven Neighborhoods Like Warm Sisters depicts prostitutes living near Camp Humphreys.[87][88]


Song Byung-soo depicts prostitutes in Shorty Kim (1957).[32] A Stray Bullet by Yu Hyun-mok depicts one woman who becomes a prostitute to rescue her family.[32] Lee Moon-yul is depicted in What Crashes, Has Wings (1988).[32]


Camp Arirang is a 1995 documentary that claims one million females had been involved in prostitution up until 1995.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i
  2. ^ a b c
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b c d
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c d
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b c d
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^ “박정희 정부, ‘미군 위안부·기지촌 여성’ 직접 관리” 뉴시스 2013.11.06
  25. ^ 유승희 의원 "박정희 정권 '미군 위안부' 관리" 경향신문 2013-11-06
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ a b c d
  30. ^ a b c d
  31. ^ a b c d e f
  32. ^ a b c d e f g
  33. ^ a b
  34. ^ a b
  35. ^ a b c
  36. ^ a b c
  37. ^ a b
  38. ^ a b
  39. ^ a b
  40. ^ a b c d
  41. ^ a b c d e
  42. ^ a b c d e f g h i
  43. ^
  44. ^ a b c d e
  45. ^ a b c
  46. ^ a b
  47. ^ a b c d e
  48. ^ a b
  49. ^ a b
  50. ^ a b
  51. ^ Quoting the newsletter of My Sister's Place, July 1991, p. 8.
  52. ^
  53. ^ a b
  54. ^
  55. ^
  56. ^
  57. ^
  58. ^ a b
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^ a b c
  62. ^ a b
  63. ^ a b c
  64. ^
  65. ^ a b c d e
  66. ^ a b
  67. ^
  68. ^ a b c
  69. ^ a b c d
  70. ^
  71. ^
  72. ^ a b
  73. ^
  74. ^ a b c d
  75. ^
  76. ^ Businesses counter-protest 'juicy bars' demo outside Osan – Pacific – Stripes
  77. ^ Bar owners, workers protest Osan's off-limits ban on juicy bars – Pacific – Stripes
  78. ^ Commentary – Fighting human trafficking – the Songtan Protest and its aftermath
  79. ^
  80. ^
  81. ^ a b
  82. ^ a b
  83. ^ a b
  84. ^
  85. ^
  86. ^
  87. ^
  88. ^

External links

  • Human Trafficking public service announcement United States Forces Korea Nov 20, 2012
  • Women outside: Korean women and US Military
  • Comfort Women: Do you hear their cry?
  • 이제는 말할수 있다: 동맹속의 섹스/ now we can say: sex among allies
  • Korean Comfort Women
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