1 month later

A civic group representing prostitutes released a “white paper” on Wednesday that contained statistics pertaining to women in the industry. In particular, it was learned that seven out of 10 prostitutes were making between W3 million and W5 million a month before last year’s crackdown.

By comparison, I make W2.5 million a month working as a translator for Korea’s largest daily paper.

A survey taken of 515 girls in October, right before the crackdown, revealed that 36 percent made between W3 million and W4 million a month, 32.7 percent made between W4 million and W5 million, 15.5 percent made between W2 million and W3 million, and 14.9 percent were making over W5 million.

In terms of monthly expenditures, including family support costs like tuitions and hospital bills, 36.5 percent spent between W2 million and W3 million, 28.8 percent spent between W3 million and W4 million, 15.7 percent spent between W4 million and W5 million, and 14.9 percent spent between W1 million and W2 million.

As for age, 88 percent of the girls were in their 20s, with 73 percent between the ages of 20 and 26. 59.5 had been working less than 2 years.

56.8 percent were high school graduates. 38.7 were middle school grads and lower. Only 4.5 percent were either college grads of college dropouts, but then again, I went to Georgetown, and I’m pulling W2.5 million a month, so I guess that shows you who the stupid one is.

The group pointed out that most of the girls working in the red light districts were there to earn money to support their families, and the crackdown has led to the sudden termination of their livelihoods and placed them in a very difficult situation that requires help at the policy level. Of course, given the nature of the civic group and the fact that it wants money from the government, one might wonder whether the numbers might be a little inflated.

The Seoul Shinmun ran some more statistics on post-crackdown prostitution. In Cheongnyang-ni 588, Seoul’s biggest red-light district, 30 establishment were open as of Tuesday, compared to the 147 that were open before the crackdown. Those 30 are not doing particularly well, it would seem. One brothel owner complained that she gets maybe three or four customers a week, while another employs two girls who do only one or two tricks a day. A PC cafe owner in the neighborhood said she used to have about 100 girls that were regular users, but now, they’re down to about 10.

Of the over 300 girls who used to work in 588, only about 60 or 70 remain. More than half of the rest have gone abroad to places like Japan, Saipan, Guam and Thailand. Brokers are apparently sending out girls in teams of four or five, charging them W10 million a person to go to Japan and W11 million for Saipan. According to one brothel owner, because the girls have to pay the brokers upfront, they rack up debts, so when they arrive at their destination, they often have their passport taken away and they live in semi-captivity. One girl who used to work in the Yongsan red light district complained, “The brokers say that even abroad, we’d only have to service Koreans, but in fact, that’s not the case. Because I’m frightened about having to serve even foreigners in a place where I can’t communicate, I wouldn’t go willingly.”

The World Sex Guide has an interesting write-up about Saipan, BTW (Note: may not be work safe). Seems the Korean-Chinese (Korean: Joseon-jok) have made it there, too:

Karaoke clubs: These are mostly geared to Asian men (the whole sillly notion of karaoke is Japanese) and are largely staffed by Chinese and Korean-Chinese girls (ethnic Koreans raised in China). These girls are usually available for all night, but many only speak Chinese and pidgin Japanese. They charge what the traffic will bear, and with Japanese and Korean tourists, money is no object. Many of these girls love the Asian men–heavy spenders with low sexual demands–and will ignore Western men. But by no means all of them. These clubs are all over Beach and Middle Roads. I haven’t visited one in months.

A very well-researched document — read it on your own.

Back to our working girls for a moment. The Seoul Shinmun also cited the survey mentioned in the first piece, pointing out that 82 percent of the girls said that they are responsible for supporting their families, usually the hospital bills of a parent or a sibling’s tuition.