The Comfort Women of South Korea

The story and reality of Comfort women is a dark and hurtful past that haunts Korea to this day. The horrible product of war and foreign occupation. An innocent name for the horrors it bears 

Comfort women were founded during the Japanese occupation of Korea but later passed down and continued by U.S. soldiers who fought and were stationed in South Korea. South Korea was urged to supply prostitutes to U.S. soldiers and personnel, this lead to an influx of prostitutes; they would train these women in English and etiquette and have them stationed in the camptowns that popped up in response to the U.S. military bases. The South Korean government made it illegal to engage in the act of prostitution, but for some reason, this did not apply to camptowns. See as “Camptown prostitution and related businesses on the Korean Peninsula contributed to nearly 25 percent of the Korean GNP”(Park) These brothels in camptowns near the “military bases [were labeled] as “special tourist businesses.”“(Park) This allowed the continuation of comfort women, prostitution, and sexual slavery to happen for so long from the end of the Korean war and continuing to this very day.

The Korean government did nothing to discourage in these practices that were harmful to women as they were sexually abused, exposed to sexually transmitted diseases and horrible conditions. Their own government allied in forcing their female citizens into prostitution. These women were praised by their government as “dollar-earning patriots” or “true patriots.”(Choe) They were forced to register themselves, “As of 1962, more than 20,000 comfort women registered sexual satisfaction for 65,000 US soldiers.” (Lee)  The Korean government sponsored comfort women as a way to gain revenue from U.S. soldiers Park Chung-hee, leader of South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s, encouraged the sex industry to generate revenue. (Ghosh) It has been speculated that U.S. soldiers contributed one billion dollars to the South Korean economy.

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Korean Women and U.S. Soldiers

The Korean government did nothing to discourage in these practices that were harmful to women as they were sexually abused, exposed to sexually transmitted diseases and horrible conditions. Their own government allied in forcing their female citizens into prostitution. These women were praised by their government as “dollar-earning patriots” or “true patriots.”(Choe) They were forced to register themselves, “As of 1962, more than 20,000 comfort women registered sexual satisfaction for 65,000 US soldiers.” (Lee)  The Korean government sponsored comfort women as a way to gain revenue from U.S. soldiers Park Chung-hee, leader of South Korea in the 1960s and 1970s, encouraged the sex industry to generate revenue. (Ghosh) It has been speculated that U.S. soldiers contributed one billion dollars to the South Korean economy.

images
Korean comfort women 1945 Okinawa, Japan

While some may say that the Comfort Women of the Japanese occupation and the Comfort Women used by the U.S. military are not exactly the same, they were at different times and under different conditions. I will agree, that they weren’t exactly the same, one was forced, and the other had more of a choice. But can one really call it a choice when most of the comfort women that served the U.S. military were uneducated and poverty stricken?  Encouraged by their government, called patriots, honored but in reality, these were women who did not have many options and often times were forced into or forced to stay in prostitution.

What I wonder is did these Americans soldier just see these brothels for what they were or did they chose to turn a blind eye like the Korean government as it benefitted their needs? Was their use of brothels that were illegal but at the same time legal have any connection of their perception of the orient? Did their continue used of brothels, juicy bars, and prostitutes have links with the misconception of the submissive and exotic oriental woman? The way the use of comfort women, was encouraged by may be seen as the orient not speaking for themselves, letting the occident speak for them. Korea was not the economic power that it is today it was significantly weakened by the Korean war; the United States was a newly named superpower. Western ideals overpowered the conservative ideals and culture of Korea and allowed for prostitution to be encouraged and profited off of.

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Women in an American Camptown in 1971

Could the blind eye to prostitution(the oldest trade in the world), sexual abuse and human trafficking be because of the relationship between the orient and the occident?

Additional Reading:

My body was not mine, but the US military’s

South Korea: A Thriving Sex Industry In A Powerful, Wealthy Super-State


Sources Used:

Choe, Sang-Hun. “Ex-Prostitutes Say South Korea and U.S. Enabled Sex Trade Near Bases.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia, 7 Jan. 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/08/world/asia/08korea.html. Accessed 8 Dec. 2017.

Ghosh, Palash. “South Korea: A Thriving Sex Industry In A Powerful, Wealthy Super-State.” International Business Times, http://www.ibtimes.com/south-korea-thriving-sex-industry-powerful-wealthy-super-state-1222647. Accessed 8 Dec. 2017.

Lee, Young Hoon. “그날 나는 왜 그렇게 말하였던가 (Why did I say so in that day).” NewDaily, 1 June 2009, http://www.newdaily.co.kr/news/article.html?no=27671. Accessed 8 Dec. 2017.

Pae, Christine. “In Remembrance of Wartime “Comfort Women” | Reflections.” Yale University, reflections.yale.edu/article/womens-journeys-progress-and-peril/remembrance-wartime-comfort-women. Accessed 8 Dec. 2017.

Park, Soo-Mee. “Former Sex Workers in Fight for Compensation.” JoongAng Ilbo, web.archive.org/web/20130430220310/koreajoongangdaily.joinsmsn.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=2896741. Accessed 8 Dec. 2017.

Said, Edward. “Introduction.” In Orientalism. Pantheon, 1978.


Images Used:

http://www.newdaily.co.kr/news/article.html?no=27671

https://web.archive.org/web/20130430220310/http://koreajoongangdaily.joinsmsn.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=2896741

i.pinimg.com/736x/20/f6/ae/20f6ae25721c95c443851f08bb275c5f.jpg.

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