중앙데일리

Sex trade worsens in U.S. camptowns

Jan 02,2008
Clubs clustered around Camp Casey in Dongducheon, northern Gyeonggi. Many of the clubs will have moved to Pyeongtaek, southern Gyeonggi, by 2012. [JoongAng Ilbo]
To “Uri,” struggling to find a job in her country, a newspaper advertisement that promised her a successful career as a singer in Korea and lucrative income seemed an opportunity that would not knock twice.
The 24-year-old Filipina, who only identified herself with her alias, immediately visited an employment agency in Manila in late 2006. There she took a singing test, which was filmed and sent to a Korean agency and the Korean immigration office. Less than two months later, she flew to Korea with an E-6 visa, issued to foreign performing artists.
When the Korean agency took Uri to a club near a U.S. military base in Pyeongtaek, she realized she’d been cheated. Instead of a microphone, there was a pole around which she was supposed to drape herself.
But she wasn’t only required to dance. Commercial sex was also part of the deal.
Uri was one of 45 club workers from the Philippines interviewed by My Sister’s Place (Durebang), a civic group for women working in U.S. camptowns.
The interviews are included in a survey of camptown women in Pyeongtaek, southern Gyeonggi, that the group published last month. The survey was supported by the provincial government.
You Young-nim, director of the group, said previous surveys were carried out at other U.S. camps in Korea. Their research revealed a greater number of human rights violations against foreign women in Pyeongtaek.
According to You, this is because of the relocation plans for U.S. camps. The Korean government and U.S. Forces Korea agreed last year to move all U.S. Army camps in the northern Gyeonggi area and Seoul to Pyeongtaek by 2012.
“The planned expansion of U.S. bases in Pyeongtaek is encouraging people to build more clubs there. This is in contrast to the general decline of such clubs in other parts of Gyeonggi,” You said. “Unless something is done, the Pyeongtaek clubs will create more serious human rights issues.”
According to the survey, the Korean government loosened the migration process for foreign entertainers in 1996. Then the Korea Special Tourist Association, comprised of club owners around U.S. military bases, began to bring in women from the Philippines and former Soviet Union countries on E-6 visas.
The number of the migrants on these visas, mostly women, increased from 3,947 in 2004, 5,533 in 2005 and 5,837 in 2006, the survey said.
Most of these women are involved in the sex trade, while the number of Korean club workers around U.S. camps has decreased, the survey said.
“The sex trade industry in camptowns previously used Korean women called yanggongju, which literally means Western princess. They are now preying on Filipinas,” You said in the survey.
The other 44 Filipinas featured in the survey, which was conducted in Pyeongtaek from late May to early September in 2007, have had similar experiences to Uri. Russian club workers were not available for interviews, Durebang explained.
The interviewees were promised an average salary of $607 a month, six times what they could earn in the Philippines, but none received that much.
If they failed to complete their monthly quota ― sales of hundreds of juice drinks priced at around $10 each, and several “bar fines,” when a customer pays the club so he can take a worker to a motel ― they had money deducted from their wages.
Some of the women fled because of the forced bar fine.
“The club forced me to do it twice a week, even during my period,” a former club worker, who uses Mheryl as her alias, was quoted in the survey. “They threatened to send me back to the Philippines.”
You said government intervention is desperately needed, and she called on the government to support drop-in centers as well as medical and legal aide.
But without a fundamental change in government mentality, support at the moment remains a temporary remedy, You said.
“The Korean government says the sex trade is illegal, but it turns a blind eye to these foreign female entertainers,” You said. “The government should come up with solutions. To that end, close cooperation among intra-government agencies should be established.”


By Moon Gwang-lip Staff Reporter [joe@joongang.co.kr]


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