[LETTERS TO THE EDITOR]‘Wanderings’ has gotten lostSince I’ve been a subscriber to your paper, I have followed the so-called “Itaewon Wanderings” of columnist Mike Ferrin with growing bemusement. In the past couple weeks, his columns have leaped beyond the bounds of common decency.
On Sept. 10, Mr. Ferrin interviewed a pair of women who work on “the Hill” in Itaewon. His first question: “Why not other sin districts like Gangnam or Jongno, or the many red-light districts scattered about the city?” Mr. Ferrin quotes his subject as saying that the “johns [in Itaewon] are more respectful.” His conclusion: “[m]ost juicy girls do want to hug you.” Mr. Ferrin’s self-serving observation that these women do in fact “want” to be subjugated to the physical whims of their customers proliferates the myth, clung to by predators who frequent any red-light district in any country, that the women actually enjoy being sexually exploited.
On Sept. 17, Mr. Ferrin offered a “beginner’s guide” to the transgender prostitution scene in Itaewon. He recommends, “[f]or heavenly bodies at Akasaka, start with Yoo-jin, who could pass for a Louisiana prom queen, with a lean body ...” The issue has nothing to do with Mr. Ferrin bringing attention to a subject that most Koreans would categorically deny or at least prefer to keep locked away in the basements of Itaewon. The use of the phrase “heavenly bodies” evokes flashbacks of a bygone era in which Asian women (or men, as it were, in this case) were depicted as sexual objects to be plucked from the stars at will. Even worse, while his other columns have merely ridiculed prostitution and its victims, this column brazenly condones, encourages and facilitates participation therein.
Is the purpose of Mr. Ferrin’s columns to salvage the conscience of those who partake of the prostitution available in Itaewon? Customers shouldn’t carry undue guilt because, after all, these professional men and women really enjoy their line of work? Is it to provide helpful information for the easy acquisition of paid-for sex? So that potential customers shouldn’t get lost and wander about Itaewon and that the sex trade should operate as efficiently as possible?
by Ki-hyun Hahm