detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Saturday, August 10, 2002


: . Let the Good Times Roll:

From the recent Time Asia, a bit of new old news: “Filipina and Russian women are being sold into sexual slavery in the seedy bars and nightclubs that serve U.S. military bases in South Korea.” An excerpt:
    [Rosie] Danan had to dance on stage every night, eight times a night—and, the mama-san warned, all her clothes had better be off before the song ended. It was the most humiliating thing she had ever done. But a few days later, it got worse—a G.I. came in and paid to take her to one of Club Y's squalid VIP rooms, where sex costs $60 for 10 minutes and about $160 for half an hour. The mama-san gave her tissues and a condom, and hit her when she resisted. "Every time I am crying," says Danan. "The mama-san said, 'If you cry like that in the business, the business is going down.'"
    …Danan's story had a happy ending—almost. She escaped from her mama-san a year and a half ago with the help of a Filipino priest. Last June, she returned to Korea hoping to marry her G.I. boyfriend, only to face another bitter disappointment. He beat her, she says, and almost smothered her with a pillow. So she went back to the shelter run by the Filipino priest. Downrange, some of the soldiers say they have heard stories like that. But a lot of guys are just young and lonely and looking for a woman to drink a beer with. "It's about companionship, it's not about sex," says a soldier who's heard about trafficking, while enjoying the rock 'n' roll music at the Sun Club. At Club Y, a soldier sits with his buddy nursing a beer as two Filipinas perform a lap dance for G.I.s at the table behind him. He thought prostitution was legal in Korea and has not heard about the trafficking, but says, "There's nothing I could do about it." At the pizza joint, the three sergeants don't have anything more to say, telling a reporter: "We shouldn't be talking to you." Why not? "We're here to protect democracy. We're not here to practice it." They finish their beers and head out onto the strip, the platinum blonde Russian in tow.

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