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[flagged] United States military and prostitution in South Korea (wikipedia.org)
76 points by luu 9 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments

I just want to throw in some perspective.

From the 1900s to the 1960s, it’s fair to say that Korea’s economy (that is, the few decades it was independent) was worse off economically than what you’d think of, say, Haiti today.

1895: The one Korean ruler trying to modernize the nation was assassinated (Queen Min). 1910: Japan “annexed” Korea (a 400 year old goal finally realized), and it tried to strip away the native language and culture. 1945: Japan lost. 1950: Proxy war between China and the United States, razing the entire peninsula. 1953: Now, Korea is finally ready to rebuild. Divided, but at least it’s quiet.

The 1960s to the 1970s were remarkable in that it transformed the country into a very productive and industrialized nation. It just took a bootstrap of reparation payments, loans, some export treaties, and a dictator who meant well but was fortunately assassinated (my personal view) at the right moment.

Even in the 1970s, North Korea had a more productive economy than South Korea.

It’s not until the 1980s where Korea came into its own.

If I recall correctly, South Korean nurses often were sent to countries such as West Germany en masse during the 1960s and 1970s, in order to get more cash flowing into the economy.

In that context, prostitution was yet another way to get money flowing. Definitely seedy (looked down upon, absolutely) but Korea’s recovery and rise was a drawn out hard-scrabble.

My family was a former “0.1%” before losing most of it in the Korean War, but even what was left over was enough to live reasonably (my parents graduated from top colleges, for example), then eventually leave.

I joke with my wife that my life would’ve been more comfortable in South Korea if they’d just stuck it out, but I don’t blame them for never wanting to go back to live there.

By the 1970s, tens of thousands of children had been born to South Korean women and American soldiers.[89] In South Korea, these children are often the target of racist vitriol and abuse, being called mostly "western princess bastards" (Yanggongju-ssaekki) children of white soldiers, and a minority born to black soldiers were "darkies", or "[n-word]" (Kkamdungi).

Racial purity is still a big deal in Korea, unfortunately.

Mixed-race football player Hines Ward brought attention to this issue when his team won the Super Bowl, which made him famous in Korea and prompted some self-reflection:


Thanks for the Hines Ward reference. I met him once and he seemed like a kind and humble person. Never knew he was half Korean but it makes sense now that I look back.

I visited Seoul in 2003 and stayed in some random hotel. In that hotel was one channel clearly run by the American military.

I was horrified to see it had public service announcement type announcements to tell US Military personal that selling Korean women into sex slavery is illegal!!!

The fact that they actually had to send that message.... WTF!!!

The Armed Forces Network (AFN) broadcasts American media to overseas troops, so long as they agree not to show commercials. Programs still have commercial breaks, so all of the commercials are PSAs developed for/by the military, hence why you saw that commercial.

Human trafficking is a real concern overseas, including in US military areas. The PSAs serve two purposes; to educate troops so they make good decisions and for leverage to hammer them when they don't. (How many times have you seen that trafficking commercial played on AFN a dozen times a week? You should have known better).

The US military granting R&R leave to Thailand, for servicemembers serving in Vietnam during the war, is the reason why Thailand has such a thriving sex tourism industry today.

Also, military members outed as homosexual (when it was illegal) were usually outprocessed in San Francisco, which may have contributed to it being one of the birthplaces of the gay rights movement.

Unintended consequences I suppose

> During the 1960s, camp town prostitution and related businesses generated nearly 25% of the South Korean GNP


Yikes. I guess that this phenomenon can in part be explained by the fact the the dollar is a very strong currency?

Or more likely, that it's wrongly sourced and misleadingly put.

25% is a lot. The number of prostitutes ranged from 10k to 30k in various estimates, 30k being the upper range. There is no way a country with a population of then 28 million people, saw a quarter of its GDP produced by 0.08% of the population who provided a sexual service.

I looked at the source and it doesn't say what it states here. Wikipedia sources it to: https://web.archive.org/web/20130430220310/http://koreajoong...

> Camptown prostitution and related businesses on the Korean Peninsula contributed to nearly 25 percent of the Korean GNP, according to Katharine Moon, a professor of political science at Wellesley College, in a 2002 study.

Katharine Moon references in her book Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.-Korea Relations the following: 'One EUSA officer estimates that the troops contributed to 25% of South Korea's GNP in the 1960s'.

Then goes on to mention merely that in 1964 the EUSA inspector general notes that "at the local community level, the business of prostitution is recognised as a source of income large enough to have an impact on the economy."

And US soldiers were paid well (relative to the Korean average wages at the time)?

Besides wages, soldiers have everything that civilians have to pay for provided to them (food, shelter, etc).

And also that "normal" economic activity would be heavily suppressed by the war.

The last "legal brothel" the US had was in Japan.


The French had them up until 2003 in Djibouti.


The book "Naples 44" has some fascinating details on the Allied occupation of Naples immediately after its liberation, when the shortage of food was most severe. Including the operation of survival prostitution for the food that the Allied troops had, and the efforts of the military authorities to corral this.

The memoir “German Boy” recounts similar circumstances in postwar Germany, when the author’s mother had to sell herself (first to the Russians, then the Americans) for him and his sister to eat.


Below [1] is an interview with a "Comfort Woman". The story is much more gruesome than the Wikipedia entry suggests.

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsT97ax_Xb0

Not sure how big the difference is, but she was forced by the Japanese to be a comfort woman, the Wikipedia talks about women during the US occupation, some who were perhaps more "freely" there. Although it does mention them being "owned" by the club/bar owners.

For the article:

> In September 1945, United States Armed Forces, led by General John R. Hodge, occupied South Korea after Korea's liberation from Japan. This also included Imperial Japanese comfort stations.[39] These events continued the government-sanctioned prostitution that was established in Korea under Japan's rule.

Sounds like they just took over what the Japanese had put in place... which is interesting to me because a) I never had heard of it b) living in Japan, the comfort women is a recurring theme of tension with SK, but I've never heard about SK giving crap to the US about this.

Please HN! Put a checkbox in the submit form for users to confirm that the post isn't off topic for the HN, and title isn't a clickbait.

Is there a difference between a sex-trafficking victim and a "normal" sex worker? Wikipedia articles for example do not distinguish much. In fact, Wikipedia almost implies all webcam models or pornstars are probably slaves.

Since it is unlikely to 100% abstain from porn, it is now necessary to determine sexual-slave from willing participant in porn (or other sex-worker). How to do so?

The problem is that in most countries, there is no legal framework for what constitutes willing sex work.

So by default, if you profit from sex work in any way, it is sex-trafficking. It can go as far as just having a tenant who does commercial sex in his apartment.

This is ironic when income from sex work is taxed, as it makes the state itself guilty of sex trafficking.

One of the wonderful things reading Buck Danny [1] comics in my youth taught me.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buck_Danny

What does this have to do with hackernews? Why is it on top page?


On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity.

Because it was voted by HN users.

What does your comment has to do with hackernews?

If you were a frequent here, and represenative of the HN crowd (something which your question implies being), you'd have seen the same question time and again, and always the same answer posted from HN guidelines:

"On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity".

Because it's an interestingly unknown story.

There's more to life than JavaScript.

Obviously I'm being facetious, but it's interesting and potentially useful as many of the readership are American and may not be familiar with this element of their countries history.

Definitely! and the most interesting things in life are not digital! ;-)

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