Friday, December 16, 2011

Filipina Women in US Military Camptowns

Park Sori, the director of Durebang in Pyoungtek, gave a presentation on the final night of the series on gender studies sponsored by the International Outreach Team of the House of Sharing: "한풀이: Liberating Herstories".

The website is for the Durebang center in 위정부, the main office and which assists the women who were entrapped in sex trafficking around the military bases in years past; the women at that site are older, maybe around 60ish, but the women in the 평택 Durebang are younger and principally Filippina. The 평택 Durebang has only been opened for 2 years and is still trying to resolve what role it can play in assisting the sex trafficked foreign women. [Much dialog is held about the role these women function in modern-day society, and their roles as 'coerced' sex workers have been likened to that of the 'comfort women' of the Japanese colonial period.]

Since 1986 Durebang has been a functioning organization that has supported foreign camptown women. These women have come to Korean on legal visas to work in and only for entertainment as singers and dancers, and the women since the 1990s have been predominantly Filippinas, misled Filippinas who are promised one job and upon arrival realize that it's a different job and are forced to do the work as they have no social or legal support in the foreign country. Therefore, one of the big reasons for opening the 평택 branch is to provide avenues for entertainment workers social networks outside of their compromised work environment and to meet other Filippinas in the Korean community, such as Filippinas who have married Korean men or are nannies, etc.

The Filippinas who do go to Durebang for assistance are usually needing help regarding financial assistance, such as no money for food, not being paid, needing hospital or medical care. However, they NOT want to say anything in any way regarding their being victims of sex trafficking. After some time of being open and available for assistance, one Filippina finally confessed to being used sexually and once someone had opened the topic, others came to report the problem also. The Filippinas came to Korea thinking that they would be singers and dancers, but once here realized that their job as entertainer was bar hostess that had to serve other sex roles.

Even though their passports and ID were taken away, the government does not admit that they are sex trafficked as to the government sex trafficking implies kidnapping and being chained or confined against one's will and obviously the Filippinas have signed contracts as entertainers and are not chained or confined in any way. As the workers have official places of work -- cruise boats, entertainment resorts, near military camps, ports, they are certainly not trafficked. However, sex trafficking in its broader definition means that people, predominantly women, are moved to alternative locations and pressured into sexual relations of any kind against their will. These girls are therefore sex trafficked; they have been not forcefully but deceptively relocated to another country, given jobs that they did not contract for, and are forced to stay at those jobs (by government sanction) as they cannot find employment anywhere else until they show their personal documents, which they don't even have access to, and re-register their place of employment. Therefore, the Filippinas' existence in Korea is a sex-trafficking sanctioned by the government!

How Brokers Work in the Filippines

Women first get introduced to brokers by family members, friends, and other contacts. The Filippinas are hoping to get a job in order to earn money to support their families back in the Philippines. Once they accept the job, brokers convince them of the validity of the job and the girls receive training in singing and/or dancing in order to have the necessary skills upon arriving in Korea. They are also convinced that they will receive workers' rights, 4 days off a month, only give 3 performances a day, and basically brokers go to great lengths to convince the girls and those around them of the attractiveness of the job.

However, once the girls are in Korea and actually see others working, they know their contracts are basically null and void. Instead of singing, they might be working as bar hostesses and have to meet certain unrealistic quotas, for example, as a juicy bar hostess they might have to sell 300-400 glasses of pricey fruit juice (non-alcoholic so the selling is tricky) a month. They learn how to flirt, sit next to or on the lap of the customer, act cute, kiss, dance and even have more escalated contact, which can include sex. Business owners actually give a commission on each glass of juice sold -- example, for a ₩10,000 glass commission might be ₩2,000, and with this minute payment, owners can validate their claim that the girls are not trafficked and of course girls act all innocent when police or immigration raid the juicy bars as they feel somehow caught in the machinations of the industry and don't know who to trust or if they can even get help.

Brokers certainly aren't trustworthy. They are the ones benefitting. They get a commission for each girl they sign up, so go to unscrupulous ends for high commissions. Then, when bar owners pay the girls, they aren't paid the entertainment wages dictated by their contracts (hey, they likely haven't met quota so why?) so the owners pay between 1.1 and 1.3million won, but not to the girls but to the brokers. The brokers may or may not pay the girls, who might in the end only see ₩300,000 a month, not really enough to eek by and certainly with little to nothing left over to send home to the family in the Philippines.

Feeling trapped and bound by the quota system, girls learn that selling one juice equates to one point toward the unrealistic 300 or 400, but if they go to 2-차, or second round, they can get 20 points toward their quota ... and so they are kind of forced into the physical sexual acts.

Many people know about the circumstances of the juicy bars or other entertainment systems, but see them as a "necessary evil". The Korean sex industry is rapidly increasing and the nature of this work, "sex trafficking", is conducted in areas where it's not obvious, behind closed doors so to say, and so there is a lot of passivity on the issue. As it was historically for the poor Korean women without male support, Korea with its development now thinks that it is justified that other poor-country women should do the same work. Russian women were "trafficked" in Korea until 2003 when the E-6 visa was no longer issued to them, but this simply transferred the sex work around military camps to another nationality of women. In short the prevailing attitude seems to be, although the sex industry for camptowns does happen in Korean but no longer involves Korean women, it really is not Korea's problem any more.

To solve this problem, Durebang also tries to work with the sending countries because they are responsible too. Japan has military camptowns like Korea, and there too the women working them are predominantly Filippinas, a country quite relaxed about sending its women abroad to work. The Thai government takes an even laxer stance on the sending of its females than the Philippines government. There is a lack of vital response to control the work as the work outside constitutes generating cash flow within the country, an attitude that Korea took in the 1960s through 1980s, which results in exploitation of its people, particularly its women.

The Filipina women, after coming to the Durebang shelter, want to return to their country, which means that no charges can be pressed if there is no one to testify against the contract breakers and sexual perpetrators. Further on that note, Korean women usually fail at winning in sex related court cases, and foreign women, particularly the looked-down upon south-east Asians, really haven't got a chance of winning.


Tonight concludes the series "Liberating Herstories". More awareness on the topic of the sex industry - both past and present - and hopefully some sizeable donations have been made to divide between the 3 NGOs: House of Sharing, Durebang, and the Korean Council. However, although many people attended and I attended almost every night, I saw no businessmen, only one reporter (maybe), in fact few professionals. Young people mostly attended ... but they will help carry the flame to light the pyre of enlightenment on the issue and fuel the political engines for getting an apology and the six other concerns of the halmoni. Looking around Cafe Anthrocite at the various pictures of the halmoni on silent auction tonight [halmoni through art paint their emotions of the unfortunate events which took place], there is one picture that I find most gripping on the issue. It is a picture of a young woman in stark black and white; the only color on the large felt pen and ink picture is a bloody red hand splashed over the woman's mouth ... demanding her silence.

She will remain silent no longer! She will speak out! She will be heard! She demands an apology!

No comments:

Post a Comment