10,000 South Korean women at the disposal of US uniforms: a secret transnational business

By | May 18, 2023

When the Korean War ended in 1953, he was designated as “war in the most inappropriate place, at the most inappropriate time, with the most inappropriate adversary”. In short, there was no winner. However, it has recently come to light that there was a “loser”.

As the US assumed the role of postwar protector of South Korea, it would demand a price: women for its troops, always available and controllable for decades to come.

During the war, “liberal” South Korea devised a “patriotic” way to save money on US troops: it created “special female recreational units” for South Korean soldiers and “recreational stations” for UN troops, headed by USA.

They mocked us by calling us “patriots”

Prostitution was and still is illegal in South Korea, but enforcement has been selective. When the war ended, Seoul realized that he could extend this “measure” since thousands of US troops would be stationed for decades.

Thus, the South Korean authorities built the so-called Gijichon camp cities, on the outskirts of the US military bases.

According to a lengthy New York report, in 2022 documents surfaced in the context of the trial of a woman who was tortured in 1961, Gyeonggi Province deemed it “urgent to prepare mass facilities for ‘leisure women’ to provide comfort for troops” of the ONU. or to boost their morale’.

Women are escorted by US servicemen into a camp outside a US base in South Korea in 1965. (Source: Green Bee Publishing).

Local authorities licensed private clubs to recruit such women to “save bucks.” According to the documents, an estimated 10,000 are the number of women who “looked after” 50,000 US soldiers.

The camps would confine the women within the boundaries so they could be more easily monitored and prevent the spread of prostitution, while society mostly dismissed these women as yanggalbo, meaning “prostitutes from the West.”

“Officials who called us patriots mocked us behind our backs, calling us ‘dollar-earning machines,'” recalls Park Geun-ae, a former “leisure woman” now 77.

Woman in camp looking at camera (Source: https://mun6144.tistory.com/3340)

An additional reason that women were not allowed to leave the camps was to prevent sexual crimes involving US soldiers from spreading to the rest of society. Between 1960 and 2004, US soldiers were found guilty of murdering 11 women, according to a list compiled by victims’ advocacy group Saewoomtuh.

The black market also exploded when South Koreans were thirsty for contraband goods being shipped out of bases, as well as foreign currency.

After the 1960s

When in 1969 President Richard Nixon announced the reduction of troops in South Korea, the country was activated to continue profiting from the sex trade.

In 1970, the government reported to Parliament that South Korea earned $160 million a year through businesses stemming from the US military presence, including the sex trade. Imagine that the total exports of the country at that time were 835 million dollars.

1 woman for every 5 soldiers (Source: https://mun6144.tistory.com/3340)

So when work “fell off”, some of the women headed to the cities to earn a living. Others, like Choi Gwi-ja, were kidnapped or lured away with the promise of work. The “fare” was between 5 and 10 dollars, which, of course, the pimps took.

A newspaper at the time called such women “illegal, like cancer, a necessary evil.” But “these idle women are also frontline warriors for earning dollars,” she said. Often some were drugged to endure the rape.

US Military Organized Crime

According to declassified US documents, in 1973 a US official admitted that while US military policy on prostitution was “total abolition”, however, “this is not done in Korea”.

Instead, the US military focused on protecting soldiers from venereal disease. The surviving women described how they met monthly for “lessons” where South Korean officials praised them as “dollar-earning patriots” while US officials urged them to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.

The women had to be checked twice a week and those who were infected were detained for medical treatment.

Women talking to American soldiers, 1960 (Source: https://mun6144.tistory.com/3340)

According to rules devised by the US military and South Korean officials, women in the camps had to be “registered”, bear the VD brand, and carry name and number cards.

died of penicillin

The US military conducted regular inspections of the clubs in these camps, keeping records of the women’s photographs in clinic databases to help infected soldiers trace where they might have contracted it.

Those arrested included not only women found to be infected, but also those identified as contacts or those who did not have a valid test card during random inspections. The journey of these women continued as they were kept in facilities with barred windows and administered large doses of penicillin.

According to the accounts of women who survived and remember these prisons with horror, many of their companions collapsed or died from penicillin shock.

US soldiers their “fellowship”, 1960 (Source: https://mun6144.tistory.com/3340)

An unfair justification and the silence of the American army

None of the government documents declassified in recent years have revealed evidence to suggest that South Korea was directly involved in recruiting women for US troops. So these women say they had to live in shame and silence.

This sinful chapter of South Korean history slowly began to emerge when a woman, Yun Geum-i, was brutally sexually assaulted and brutally murdered by an American soldier in 1992.

Choi Gwi-ja, underwent multiple abortions due to the “patriotic duty” imposed on her by her country.

Those camps began to decline as the country’s economy grew, but today, women who were previously tortured want to take their case to US courts, but face legal hurdles.

In a psychiatric report that Ms Park submitted to a South Korean court in 2021 as evidence, she likened her life to “constantly walking on thin ice” for fear that others would find out about her past. Her arms and thighs show signs of self-harm.

According to the South Korean court decision, Ms. Park and others were compensated between $2,270 and $5,300. This was their country’s apology for so many ruined lives.

Park Geun-ae, a former “leisure woman” cries as she remembers her experiences in the camps.

In an interview, Choi Gwi-ja broke down in tears describing the multiple abortions she and other women suffered due to South Korea’s prejudice against children born to mixed-race parents.

Her voice trembled as she remembered the women who committed suicide after the Americans who married them abandoned them and their children. She recalled how officials once encouraged women, many of them illiterate like herself, to earn dollars by promising them free apartments in old age if they sold their bodies for money in the camp towns. “It was all a scam,” she said.

The US military declined to comment on the Supreme Court ruling or the women’s allegations. “We do not condone any type of behavior that violates South Korean laws, rules or directives, and we have implemented measures of good order and discipline,” said the spokesman, Colonel Isaac Taylor.

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