Morale: South Korea Loses That Loving Feeling


August 26, 2010: The South Korean government recently cracked down on visas for young Filipino women visiting as entertainers. The number of Filipinas, working at over 300 "juicy bars" outside American military bases, has gone down by more than half in the last year. The South Korea action was based on an effort to halt human trafficking, for sexual purposes, of Filipinas. But most of the Filipino women knew what they were getting into, as Filipinas have been coming to South Korea for over a decade. The lure is big money. The problem is, the money isn't there anymore. Most of the American troops have been withdrawn, and now U.S. military personnel remaining can bring their families to South Korea. Thus there are even fewer potential customers.

For over a decade, South Korea has no longer been the sexual paradise for American troops it once was. For half a century, duty in South Korea was officially considered a hardship tour. The one bright spot was the inexpensive and widely available prostitution. This was a dirty little secret, but troops who ended up in South Korea quickly found out about it, and enthusiastically enjoyed themselves. No more. Starting five years ago, the South Korean government began cracking down on prostitutes, arresting thousands. The U.S. military declared over a thousand bars and brothels off limits and all but outlawed access to prostitutes for American troops. Hundreds of U.S. troops were arrested and punished for patronizing prostitutes.

The sexual paradise angle began to fade in the 1990s, when fewer Korean women were willing to work as prostitutes. That's because there were more, and better paying, jobs available. Those women who did want to sell sex, now preferred to do it, for a higher price, to well paid Korean men. In response to this, the brothel owners began importing women, mainly from Russia and the Philippines. This led to charges that foreign women were being forced into prostitution and this led to a call for laws, and police action, to deal with it. Four years ago, laws against prostitution for foreign troops were passed in South Korea, and American military commanders cooperated by forcing their troops to comply.

The troops were not happy with this new situation, despite Department of Defense efforts to provide other distractions. The brass have responded by offering more educational programs, late night sports leagues, more movies and religious activities. The troops are not amused.

The last time such a major “it’s good for you” change in the military regulations was made was in 1914, when the navy outlawed alcoholic beverages on American warships. The sailors have been grumbling about this ever since, and pointing out that other navies, especially the British, continue to enjoy their booze on board, without any decline in effectiveness. But the rule has never been changed (although it is frequently bent), and the fear is that an anti-prostitution rule would not only get bent all out of shape, but be a major headache to enforce as well. It’s a lot easier to keep whiskey off warships than it is to keep young soldiers away from young women.



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