[ITAEWON WANDERINGS]Tracking the vamp vote

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[ITAEWON WANDERINGS]Tracking the vamp vote

If Lee Hoi-chang, the conservative presidential candidate, loses the election this week, it may be because he failed to attract crossover voters.

According to a poll of five cross-dressers conducted in an Itaewon bar last weekend, 100 percent of the transvestites plan to vote for Mr. Lee's rival, Roh Moo-hyun, while zero like Mr. Lee. The survey was organized by the Itaewon Wanderings political pulse-feeling team. It has a flamboyant margin of error.

Conducting this poll wasn't easy. Koreans, even the eccentric ones, would rather die than reveal their vote in advance.

And it's hard to find cross-dressers here. Luckily, we located their vamping grounds: Trance, one in the cluster of gay bars near Itaewon's notorious hill.

Initial efforts to get responses from the girls failed. The five ?Margarin, Jang-mi, Suk-hee, Soon-ja and Yangyang ?were too busy in the back changing into evening wear and fixing their faces. But we figured out how to make them talk: tequila.

After a couple of rounds and some intense pressure to answer our questions, Margarin broke down. A young college student who got her name because someone once told her she was "like butter," Margarin has a smile that could light up a mineshaft. But now, in her pigtails and sheer white one-piece over a blue bikini, she was dead serious. "Roh, Roh!" she said. "Because Lee has that scandal about his sons avoiding their military duty. That's so bad!"

Suk-hee, in a candy-cane striped dress and black bouffant hairdo, echoed Margarin's sentiments. "Me, too, I will vote for Roh, for the same reasons," she said.

Neither of them were looking forward to their stints in the military, evidently. "I'm not going in the army," Margarin said. "I'm not a man!"

Next to touch on the subject was Jang-mi, the oldest of the five. "Roh, of course," she said laughing. "He looks so young, and so friendly. He is less ugly than Lee." Jang-mi, in a curly brown wig, was wearing a Santa's helper oufit, a red satin skirt/top combo trimmed in white fur ?wear that at the North Pole and you'd freeze solid in a second.

Soon-ja, who looks like Audrey Hepburn with an Adam's apple, was a tougher nut to crack. The most elegant of the bunch, she was in a tight black velvet dress over knee-high suede boots. "I don't care about Roh or Lee," she said. "But I really don't like the Buddhist candidate. He is like the Taliban. If he wins he'll make us cut off our hair and wear gray."

So who will you vote for, Soon-ja? "I don't care -- Roh, I guess, he looks friendly."

Yangyang, in a sprayed-on black pantsuit, nodded and struck a pro-Roh posture.

So the girls aren't sweet on any of the candidates, but the odds are firmly against Mr. Lee.

But what kind of man do these five want to run the country? "We want a guy with long legs, good abs and a sculptured face," Jang-mi said.

Korea's old-school politicians had better be careful. If this femme-ographic ever joins forces, this country will have a real political party, for a change.

by Mike Ferrin

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