Befriending a Prostitute
You don't have to look hard to find these foreign "hostess" girls in Korea. They are in Seoul, Pusan, and Ulsan, and perhaps other places in Korea. I am a well-traveled American, and I have seen prostitution in all forms, just about everywhere on the planet.

I neither condemn nor applaud "sex-work", and, as a lusty old guy, I don't deny having partaken of it. A victimless crime? Yes, I used to believe that. Now, I am not so sure.

I am on a new engineering assignment. I've been here in Korea for 8 weeks now. I won't say exactly which city.

I had noticed quite a few "Russian" girls around the first place that I stayed. They were from many of the former Soviet Republics. A few were "very Caucasian", and were from the Ukraine and Russia. Most of the girls that I met were very "exotic" looking to my American eyes, having the most beautiful blend of Middle Eastern and Asian features. These girls are from places like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Unlikely bar girls, these innocent angels from the East. Most were raised as good little Muslim girls. Now, they smoke, they drink, and they must endure the unwanted advances of many men, young and old, clean and dirty, gentle and unkind.

Tricked into signing contracts in their homeland, they live in a nether-world of sexual bondage.

They agreed to, and signed, "contracts", that range from 6 months to 9 months, on average. They work in hostess bars, selling "juice drinks", and talking to patrons. Every club is different, but some rules are universal: If you are a man with enough money, you can pay the "bar-fine" to mama-san or to papa-san, and pay the girl her fee, and she is yours for an hour, a night, a weekend, whatever you can afford.

I met a girl from Uzbekistan. Her name means "flower" in her language. I met another girl that I got to know very well, her name means "honey" in Kyrgyzstan.

Both worked for one thing - - to send money home to their parents and to their siblings, so their family can eat every day. Noble young lasses, or very sad? Yes. Both.

And, whom do they work for? Ah, that gets interesting. Mama san and papa san are usually Korean. Their "manager" may be a shady ex-Russian type that I think of as being ex-KGB or "Russian Mafia".

The girls earn a "salary" that their managers thoughtfully "keep safely" for the girls. The girls are promised a paid return ticket home when their contract is finished.

The girls usually set their own fees for intimate time with a man. Some have the good sense to bank that money, or to mail their earnings directly home. Others are tricked into giving it to their managers for "safe keeping" and "investment". Many girls never see any of their money.

Every girl has a different story, a different set of circumstances.

I have met some of these "Russian" girls that have a good basic education, even complete with a year or two of University. Others can barely read in their own language, and are not too quick with the most basic of arithmetic. The girls run the gamut of intelligence and language skills.

There is more, which is so unique from one girl to the next. This "hostess girl" life style seems to change these girls. Many of them were naive and innocent, and then they were thrust into something that they don't enjoy nor fully understand.

Even the more "sexually experienced" girls (typically from the Ukraine, or Russia, or from the Philippines), seem to develop an odd attitude about men, and they all seem to suffer from low self-esteem. But, they put on their false-smiles for their clients, and they learn the "game". They learn quickly that men can be "used". They learn that men, especially foreign men with high-paying jobs, are good sources of money, gifts, and the basic needs of life.

I can't imagine that any of these girls will easily re-assimilate into their society when their period of servitude ends. Certainly not these Muslim girls. Back home, they will be forbade to drink, or to smoke, or to "date" without a brother or their father tagging along.

I feel sorry for all of these girls, of every race, color, and culture. I feel sorry for any girl tricked into this kind of servitude. But, in all honesty, I especially feel sorry for these Muslim girls, raised in often-repressive societies. In their world, if they marry, it is their custom that they are expected to be "good girls" and to be virgins on their wedding night. It is a custom in some of these cultures, that the new husband will call upon his mother-in-law the day after the wedding (and, presumptively, after the bride is deflowered…) He is to then thank his mother-in-law for doing such a good job of raising a chaste girl. To the more liberal of us, this is scarcely believable, yet it is a fact of their culture. Many of these girls feel, in their hearts, that they have accepted a short tour of prostitution as a sacrifice for their families. Many girls falsely believe that they will get rich from their work. What the Muslim girls also know for certain is that when they go back home, that they will be outcasts, and that they will probably not be able to ever marry within their own culture.

You have to wonder, do the "companies", the "managers", and the "clubs" care at all about what they are doing to these girls?

Each club seems to have different living standards and working conditions for its girls. And, every girl is treated differently by her mama-san. Some girls are well taken care of, well-fed, and receive monthly medical checks. Some girls are relatively neglected, or worse. One very young girl that I met was naturally small and thin. She was quite "model-like" when she first came to Korea. The combination of regular meals and the extra hormones from the birth control injections had a stunning, and predictable affect on her young frame. She filled out, and became more womanly and curvaceous looking. Mama-san decided that the girl should stay petite, and the girl was restricted to just one meal each day.

Most girls are perpetually sad, living a life that begins at about 4:00pm each afternoon, and may end at about 3:00am each morning. They endure the risk of ruining their bodies with tobacco, alcohol, and restricted diets. They are sad inside, yet they learn the tricks of the trade, and they smile genuinely at every new customer. They learn the "greeting-routine", asking in broken-Korean, or in broken-English, "how are you, where are you from, what is your name, please sit down, would you like a drink, would you please buy me a drink?

In one case, I actually saw "The Book" that the girls memorized all of the standard questions, answers, and phrases from. What a deal. Great working conditions, and a free education.

But, what if the girls learn that this life is not so glamorous? And, what if they try to run, to break free of this indentured servitude of the tawdry sort? Their managers hold their passports and their work visas. The girls are convinced that if they run, they will be arrested. I don't know, they may be right. Others fear that if they run, that agents of the recruiting company back in their homeland will do harm to their families.

Some clients have the opportunity, as I did, to "buy" the girl's contract and to set her free.

It was relatively expensive, but I was repaid a thousand times over when this gentle 21-year-old waif cried her goodbyes to me. Sad tears, saying goodbye to me. Happy tears, knowing that she was finally free to go home. I saw her last when she got on the train to Seoul, later to connect with a flight for her home in Kyrgyzstan. Home, to rejoin her family, to see her papa, that she sorely missed. Papa hasn't got a clue what his baby girl has been doing.

Maybe it is better that he does not know.

last known address - - somewhere in Korea

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