On March 24th, a young woman committed suicide, the seventh bar “hostess” (known as “jeopdaebu,”) to do so since last July.
In a suicide note, the 27-year-old said she was forced to have sex against her will and was no longer able to stand the abuse from customers and the bar owner.
Apparently, she was not able to quit because of a “slave contract.” In such bars, the owners are, or are connected to, loan sharks who lend out money at excessively high interest rates.
In the article, it is subtly hinted that the recent crackdowns on prostitution may have actually exacerbated the situation by forcing prostitution underground, leading to the exploitation of women who, unlike those in red-light districts such as Chongyangni and the now-defunct Yongsan, never had any intention of becoming prostitutes.
As shown in the crackdown by the Pohang Police, the sex industry has developed into a well-organized business run by bar owners, gangsters and loan sharks who exploit the women, they say.
Many of them first start working at a bar or club to earn “easy money” without knowing it will put them in a trap from which they can’t get out, they say.
“Most of these hostesses regret starting the job,” Lee Jung-mi, the head of the Korean Shelter for Women, said. “They first thought they would make a lot of money by simply talking to male customers at bars or karaoke, serving drinks and singing for them. But the reality is they are forced to sell sex and they can’t say no due to money they have been loaned in advance.”
Here is a statistic that, if true, is interesting:
According to Statistics Korea, one out of 60 economically-active women work in bars, clubs and karaoke rooms, or in red light districts.
Also, in case you were wondering, the Korean music industry, despite all the rhetoric since the suicide of Jang Ja-yeon, still harbors sexual exploitation. Here is a report from this past February, in which journalists went under cover to find out what happens to young trainees.
The trainee was also asked to call the director of her agency without alerting him that he was being recorded. When asked about the contract fee she was forced to pay, he replied, “There are no agencies these days that support you financially 100%. Since we do support you 100%, don’t leave us. Even if you say that we forced you to provide sexual favors, you really have nothing to say in the end.”
Upon hearing his shocking statement, reporters visited the agency themselves while hiding their cameras. They found that the agency, on the outside, looked no different from any other agencies, and when asked to name the celebrities they housed, they had no trouble listing the names.
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Another trainee hoping to become an actress later gave her own account, revealing, “The agency said they were looking for a small role and wanted to meet me in person. They instead dragged me to their home and force fed me various drinks, claiming that they needed to check my limit. After a while, they taped my mouth shut so that I couldn’t scream, and further claimed that in order to become a celebrity, I needed to have sex with him.”
What was even more shocking for viewers was that this all happened before she entered her third year of junior high school.