Military Wiki

Comfort Woman in South Korea for the U.S. military

Prostitutes in South Korea for the U.S. military
Korean name
Hangul 위안부[1]
Hanja 慰安婦
Alternate Korean name
Hangul 양공주[1]
Hanja 洋公主

Prostitutes working for members of the US military in South Korea have been known locally under a variety of terms. Western princess (양공주, 洋公主, Yanggongju[2][3][4]) is a common name and literal meaning for the prostitutes in Kijichon, a U.S. military Camp Town (기지촌, 基地村,[1] Kijichon[5][6]) in South Korea.[7][8][9] Western whore (Yanggalbo)[2] and Yankee whore are also a common name. The women are also referred to as UN madams (유엔마담,[10][11] UN madam).[12] The official term was Comfort Women (위안부, 慰安婦, Wianbu), the same term used for military prostitutes in the Japanese Empire.[1] Juicy girls are the common name of Filipinas prostitutes.[13] According to United States Forces Korea's policy, "Hiring prostitutes is incompatible with our military core values."[14]

Most foreign prostitutes were Russian women and Filipinas. They were visited by the US military, Korean soldiers, and Korean civilian men.[15]


Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency enforced registration of Wianbu for UN forces under the Society Bureau's operation of "Management industry of venereal Wianbu for UN forces". This registration was to permit domestic partnerships between foreigners and Wianbu, without actually being legally-recognized marriages.-Dong-a Ilbo September 14, 1961.

The term "Western princess" has been commonly used in the press, such as Dong-a Ilbo for decades.[7][16] On the other hand, it is also used as an insulting epithet.[17] The official name for western princess (Yanggongju) was Wianbu (위안부, 慰安婦), i.e. "comfort woman".[1][9][18] The term Wianbu had been used by South Korean media to refer to prostitutes for the U.S. military until the early 1990s,[19] and also used to refer to the so-called comfort women.[9] In South Korea, most women who used to live around U.S. Army camps were prostitutes. Some women chose to become prostitutes.[20] Other women were coerced into prostitution.[21][22] Prostitutes for U.S. soldiers were esteemed to be at the bottom of the societal hierarchy by South Koreans,[23] they were also lowest status within the hierarchy of prostitution.[24]

U.S.Military and Syngman Rhee rule

In September 1945, U.S. forces occupied Korea, including comfort stations.[25] The women in comfort stations were also taken over.[5][25] In 1946, the United States Army Military Government outlawed prostitution in South Korea.[4][26] During the United States Army Military Government rule, Korean society treated prostitutes with humiliation that included stoning and cursing from children.[3] However, by 1953, the total number of prostitutes amounted to 350,000 according to one report but officially Korean government counted the total number of prostitutes in South Korean was 17,349 in 1953.[27].[4][26] Between the 1950s and 1960s, 60 percent of South Korean prostitutes worked near U.S. military camps.[4][26] During the Korean war, the South Korean Army controlled Wianbu units that performed sexual services for South Korean and U.S. soldiers.[1][28]Surveys carried out the 1950s and 1960s suggest 60% of these prostitutes worked near U.S. military camps,[29][30][31][32][33] but even though prostitutes work near U.S. military camps, many of them served only Korean men.[34] The number of prostitutes for U.S army was probably close to the number of U.S soldiers.[32]

According to the research on the number of checkup for Venereal diseases by professor Lee Young-hoon an economic professor at Seoul National University, the number of prostitutes in the South Korea from 1953 to 1969 was between 26,000 and 39,000.[35]

In 1954, Korean government(보건사회복지부) figures give 10,000-30,000 prostitutes servicing the U.N/U.S. military in the South Korea,[36] about 20,000 prostitutes in 1966,[37] reducing to 13,000-14,000 in 1969.[38] reducing to 9,935 in 1977.[39] Throughout the Korean War, two separate types of comfort stations were operated.[40] One was U.N. Comfort Stations (UN위안소, UN慰安所) for U.N. soldiers, and the other was Special Comfort Stations (특수위안소, 特殊慰安所) for South Korean soldiers.[40] U.N. Comfort Stations were administered in collaboration with provincial governors, mayors and polices.[41] The majority of women working in U.N. Comfort Stations were married and supporting their families.[41] On the front lines, women were brought in by trucks without permission.[1] Between 1951 and 1954, the women units were referred to as Special Comfort Units (특수위안대, 特殊慰安隊).[28][42] Some South Korean corps referred to the women as Class V supply,[1] because the South Korean Army had only up to Class IV supplies.[43] War History on the Home Front (후방전사, 後方戰史) published by the South Korean Army in 1956, refers to the existence of the South Korean military's comfort women units.[28][42] serveA 1984 report suggested that the number of prostitutes around US bases had dropped to less than a third of the total number of prostitutes in the country.[44] General Chae Myung-shin, the South Korean Vietnam Expeditionary Forces Commanding Officer, also commented on the comfort women units during the Korean War in his memoir Beyond the Deadline (死線을 넘고넘어, 사선을 넘고넘어) published in 1994.[43] Chae says, "The adopting of the military comfort women system strengthened the morale of officers and soldiers, and prevented sexually transmitted disease. There was a viewpoint that the army internalized unlicensed prostitutes who were spreading in society and protected their human rights."[43] Chae also remarks, "I don't want to expose the military to dishonor, but I record these as the undeniable facts."[43]

Second Republic (1960 - 1961)

The Second Republic viewed prostitution as something of a necessity.[45] In 1960, lawmakers of the National Assembly urged the South Korean government to train a supply of prostitutes for Allied soldiers and prevent them from spending their dollars in Japan.[45] Lee Sung-woo, the deputy home minister (ko), gave a response to the national assembly that the government had made some improvements in the “Supply of Prostitutes” for American soldiers.[45]

Military Government rule

Park Chunghee (left) here shaking hands with General Guy S. Meloy after the May 16 coup, enforced the Base Community Clean-Up Campaign.[46][47]

Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea during the 1960s and 1970s, and the father of incumbent president Park Geun-hye, encouraged the sex trade in order to generate revenue, particularly from the U.S. military.[48] Park seized power in the May 16 coup, and immediately enforced two core laws.[49] The first was the Prostitution Prevention Law, which excluded "camp towns" from the governmental crackdown on prostitution, and the Second was the Tourism Promotion Law, which designated camp towns as Special Tourism Districts.[49]

During the 1960s, camp town prostitution and related businesses generated nearly 25 percent of the South Korean GNP.[50] In 1962, 20,000 comfort women were registered, and the charge to the American soldiers was two dollars for a short time and five dollars for a long time.[1] The prostitutes attended classes sponsored by their government in English and etiquette to help them sell more effectively.[51] They were praised as Dollar-earning Patriots or True Patriots by the South Korean government.[20][48][51] In the 1970s one junior high school teacher told his students that "The prostitutes who sell their bodies to the U.S. military are true patriots. Their dollars earned greatly contributes to our national economy. Don't talk behind their back that they are Western princesses or U.N. Madams."[10]

In 1971, the number of American soldiers was reduced by 18,000, due to the Nixon Doctrine.[52][53] On account of this, South Koreans were more afraid of the North Korean threat and its economic impact.[54] Even so, camp town prostitution had already become an important component of South Korean livelihood.[54] In 1987, the American soldiers contributed 1 billion dollars to the South Korean economy which was 1% of the South Korean GNP.[55]

Despite this, there were issues of venereal disease and racial conflict. U.S. military personnel advised the South Korean government that the camp towns were breeding grounds for sexually transmitted diseases, and places of racial discrimination.[56] The venereal disease ratio per 1,000 American soldiers rapidly increased, from 389 (in 1970), 553 (in 1971), and 692 (in 1972).[53] Camp town clubs were separated for blacks and whites, and women were classified in accordance with the soldiers' race.[46] The residents near Camp Humphreys discriminated between African Americans and White Americans.[46] African American soldiers vented their anger against camp town residents.[46] On July 9, 1971, 50 African American soldiers provoked a riot against racial discrimination, and destroyed some clubs near Camp Humphreys.[46] In turn, residents hunted down African American soldiers with sickles.[46] American Military Police and South Korean Police quelled the rioters.[46] In August 1971, the Secretary of Home Affairs Ministry(ko), in cooperation with health authorities, gave orders to each police station to take precautions against sexually transmitted diseases, and instructing prostitutes about STDs.[52] On December 22, 1971, South Korean President Park Chunghee enforced the Base Community Clean-Up Campaign.[46] The government educated women not to discriminate racially, and banned clubs that posted segregationist signboards.[46] The American military police and South Korean officials regularly raided prostitutes who were thought to be spreading disease, and would detain those thought to be ill, locking them up under guard in so-called monkey houses which had barred windows,[51] and the women were forced to take medications that were reported to make them vomit.[51] Women were certified to be without disease wore tags.[20] In the 1970s, U.S. military officials and South Korean bureaucrats discussed the matter of preventing epidemics, and government efforts to register prostitutes and requiring them to carry medical certification.[45] The U.S. military issued and required the prostitutes who worked at clubs to carry Venereal Disease Cards, and also published a Venereal Disease guide to inform American soldiers patronizing bars.[57] There are reports that some women were killed by soldiers or committed suicide.[20] The South Korean Government educated prostitutes who worked at the U.S. military camp in regard of preventing venereal disease. The South Korean bureaucrats educated that prostitution is an act of patriotism.[58] The bureacrats informed the prostitutes of their contribution to the development and security of South Korea when they serve the U.S. soldiers with a healthy and clean body along with cooperative attitudes. The former Chief Secretary of the Blue House who directed the Base Community Clean-up Campaign, educated the prostitutes to learn the spirit of prostitutes who served the U.S. military during 1945 in Japan.[55] The former presidential secretary for audit and inspection, Hong Jong-chul, attempted to make policies for the prostitutes in base communities such as building apartments for them.[58]

Post Military Government rule

Warning of Prostitution and Human trafficking by United States Forces Korea

Dongducheon, where many "juicy bars" and clubs are situated near military bases.

During the early 1990s, the prostitutes became a symbol of Korean Anti-American nationalism.[59] In 1992, there were about 18,000 registered and 9,000 unregistered Korean women around the U.S. military bases.[60] In 1992, Yun Geum-i, a prostitute in Dongducheon, was brutally killed by U.S. servicemen.[61][62] Yun was found dead with a bottle stuffed into her vagina and an umbrella into her anus.[63] In August 1993, the U.S. government compensated the victim's family with about 72,000 dollars.[64] But the murder of a prostitute did not itself spark a national debate about the prerogatives of the U.S. forces, on the other hand the gang rape of a twelve-year-old Okinawan school girl in 1995 by U.S. Marines elicited much public outrage and brought wider attention to military-related violence against women.[62]

Since the mid-1990s, Russian, Uzbek, Kazakh and Filipina women have worked as prostitutes in U.S. military camp towns in South Korea.[21][22][65] Reportedly many of them have been forced into prostitution.[21][22] Since the 2000s, the majority of prostitutes have been Filipinas or Russian women, and South Koreans have become less numerous.[7][66] Since the mid-1990s, foreigners make up 80-85 percent of the women working at clubs near military bases.[67] Between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s nearly 5,000 women from Russia and the Philippines have been smuggled into Korea and forced into sexual slavery.[22] On the other hand, South Korean prostitutes are still represented in large numbers. According to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, South Korean prostitutes numbered about 330,000 in 2002.[68] As the number was rising, the Ministry estimates that about 500,000 women work in the national sex industry.[48] The Korean Feminist Association estimates the actual number may exceed one million. According to the estimates up to one-fifth of women between the ages of 15 and 29 have worked in the sex industry.[48] South Korean government also admits sex trade accounts for as much as 4 percent of the annual Gross Domestic Product.[48] In August 1999, a Korean club owner in Tongduchon was accused of trafficking in women by bringing more than 1,000 Filipina and Russian women into Korea for U.S. military bases, but a South Korean judge overturned the warrant.[69] In 2000, five foreign women locked in a brothel died in a fire in Gunsan.[5] In early 2002, 12 women died in a similar fire, also locked in a Gunsan pub.[5]

In 2002, Fox Television reported casing brothels where trafficked women were allegedly forced to prostitute themselves to American soldiers.[69] U.S. soldiers testified that the club or bar owners buy the women at auctions, therefore the women must earn large sums of money to recover their passports and freedom.[5] In May, U.S. lawmakers asked U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for an investigation that "If U.S. soldiers are patrolling or frequenting these establishments, the military is in effect helping to line the pockets of human traffickers,".[69] In June, the Pentagon pledged to investigate the trafficking allegations.[69] In 2003, the Seoul District Court ruled that three night club owners near Camp Casey must compensate all Filipina women who had been forced into prostitution.[70] The club owners had taken their passports and had kept the women locked up.[71] One Filipina who was in captivity kept a diary about her confinement, beating, abortion and starvation.[22] Before the trial began, the International Organization for Migration studied the trafficking of foreign women and reported the result to its headquarters in Geneva.[22] The Philippine Embassy also joined the proceedings, making it the first embassy to take steps on behalf of its nationals.[70] In the same year, the South Korean government completely discontinued issuing visas to former Soviet Union women, so prostitution businesses moved to bring in more Filipinas instead.[21][67] Human traffickers also brought in former Soviet Union women through sham marriages.[67] In 2005, Filipina and Russian women accounted for 90 percent of the prostitutes in U.S. military camp towns.[49] In 2005, Hwang Sook-hyang, a club owner in Tongducheon was sentenced to a 10-month suspended sentence and 160 hours of community service on charges of illegal brothel-keeping.[72] The following civil trial sentenced him to compensate 5,000 dollars to a Filipina who was forced to have sex with U.S. soldiers between February 8 and March 3, 2004.[72] The Philipina was recruited by a South Korean company in the Philippines as a nightclub singer in 2004, then she and several Filipinas were locked inside Hwang's club and forced to have sex with U.S. soldiers.[72] The former "juicy bar" employees testified that soldiers usually paid 150 dollars to bring women from the bar to a hotel room for sex, the women received 40 dollars.[73] Most juicy bars have a quota system linked to drink purchases.[73] Women who do not sell enough juice, are forced into prostitution by their managers.[73]

In 2004, the Defense Department proposed anti-prostitution. A Camp Foster U.S. serviceman told a Stars and Stripes reporter that prostitution was illegal in the United States, however, in Korea, Thailand and Australia they were pretty open.[74] By 2009, the Philippine Embassy in South Korea had established a “Watch List” of bars where Filipinas were forced into prostitution and were considering sharing it with the U.S. military in hopes that U.S. commanders would put such establishments near bases off-limits to their troops.[75] As of 2009, some 3,000 to 4,000 women working as prostitutes came annually from Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, accounting for 90 percent of the prostitutes.[65] Despite prostitution being illegal in South Korea, camp towns were still practically exempted from crackdowns.[65]

In 2010, the United States Department of State, reported the predicament of women who worked at bars near U.S. military bases as one of ongoing human trafficking concerns in South Korea.[76] The Philippine government stopped approving contracts that promoters used to bring Filipinas to South Korea to work near U.S. military bases.[77] In 2011, the Eighth Army founded Prevention of Sexual Assault Task Force, the task force assessed and reported the climate in South Korea regarding sexual assault among U.S. soldiers.[78] The report also described sexual assault which arose between a low-ranking female soldier who recently arrived on the Korean peninsula and an older male officer.[78] According to Brigadier General David Conboy, the task force was not being formed in response to a single incident, but as a broader effort to study the unit’s sexual assault prevention and response measures.[78] However, the report has yet to be approved.[78] In 2012, a United States Forces Korea public service announcement clarified “Right now, young women are being lured to Korea thinking they will become singers and dancers,” and “Instead, they will be sexually exploited in order to support their families.” The United States Forces Korea posted a video on YouTube, clarifying that “buying overpriced drinks in a juicy bar supports the human trafficking industry, a form of modern-day slavery.”[76] However, U.S. commanders continue to allow American soldiers to patronize the bars as long as they have not been caught directly engaging in prostitution or human trafficking.[79]

Women and offspring

The children born to American soldiers and Korean prostitutes were often abandoned when soldiers returned to the U.S.[17] By the 1970s, tens of thousands of mixed-race children had been born.[66] Their offspring are called "bastards of the western princesses" (Yanggongju-ssaekki), darkies, or n*****s (Kkamdungi).[2] It was difficult for South Korean prostitutes around the U.S. military bases to escape from being stigmatized by their society, thus their only hope was emigration to the United States to marry an American soldier.[5] Trafficked Filipina women also had the same dream. Some American soldiers paid off the women’s debt to their owners to free them in order to marry them.[5] However, most U.S. soldiers are ignorant of the trafficking. Some soldiers have helped Filipinas escape from clubs.[69] In 2009, juicy bar owners near Camp Casey who had political muscle, demanded that U.S. military officials do something to prevent G.I.s from wooing away their bar girls with promises of marriage.[73] In June 2010, U.S. forces started a program to search for soldiers who had left and abandoned a wife or children.[7] Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War, a research of prostitutes by Grace M. Cho who was the daughter of a G.I. and a Korean woman, was awarded 2010's best book on Asia and Asian America, by the American Sociological Association.[80][81]

A former South Korean prostitute said to the New York Times that they have been the biggest sacrifice of the South Korea-United States alliance.[45] The women also see themselves as war victims.[50] They are seeking compensation and apologies.[51] Because of this tainted history, the primary image that most Koreans had of Korean women who had copulated with white men was mainly negative.[17] Besides, the first international marriages were mostly between U.S. soldiers and Korean women who worked in U.S. military bases or who were camp prostitutes.[82] There is no official statistic on Korean women who married American soldiers. The numbers are writers guess. Therefore, Korean women in interracial marriages have also been viewed as prostitutes.[24] Marriages between Koreans and non-Koreans carry a serious stigma in South Korean society.[82] A woman who is Joongang Ilbo general manager's junior, married to a Spanish man said that almost 100 percent of middle-aged South Korean men look her up and down when she walks hand in hand with her husband.[83]



The Evil Night (1952) and A Flower in Hell (1958) by Shin Sang-ok depict prostitutes.[84][85] Silver Stallion (1991) by Chang Kil-su depicts one prostitute symbolizing the raped nation of Korea.[23] Spring in My Hometown (1998) by Lee Kwang-mo depicts one prostitute waiting for her American lover who never returns.[23] Address Unknown by Kim Ki-duk depicts the lover of a prostitute who never returns to Korea.[23]


The play Seven Neighborhoods Like Warm Sisters depicts prostitutes living near Camp Humphreys.[86][87]


Song Byung-soo depicts prostitutes in Shorty Kim (1957).[23] A Stray Bullet by Yu Hyun-mok depicts one woman who becomes a prostitute to rescue her family.[23] Lee Moon-yul is depicted in What Crashes, Has Wings (1988).[23]


Camp Arirang is a 1995 documentary that claims one million females had been involved in prostitution up until 1995.

See also


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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Cheng, Sealing (2010). On the Move for Love: Migrant Entertainers and the U.S. Military in South Korea. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-8122-4217-1. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Höhn, Maria (2010). Over There: Living with the U.S. Military Empire from World War Two to the Present. Duke University Press. p. 46. ISBN 0822348276. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Cho, Grace (2008). Haunting the Korean Diaspora: Shame, Secrecy, and the Forgotten War. University of Minnesota Press. p. 103. ISBN 0816652759. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Hughes, Donna; Chon, Katherine; Ellerman, Ellerman. "Modern-Day Comfort Women:The U.S. Military, Transnational Crime, and the Trafficking of Women". University of Rhode Island. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  6. "The United States, South Korea, and "Comfort Women"". Stanford University. January 22, 2009. Retrieved 2013-05-26. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 "[뉴스테이션/탐사리포트또 다른 양공주의 비극"]. Dong-a Ilbo. 2010-04-27. Retrieved 2013-04-08. 
  8. "[백년명가② "88년부터 찌개로… 김치 넣기 시작했지""]. JoongAng Ilbo. 2009.06.24. Retrieved 2013-04-07. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Clough, Patricia (2007). The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social. Duke University Press. p. 164. ISBN 0822339250.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Clough164" defined multiple times with different content
  10. 10.0 10.1 "[늘보의 옛날신문읽기 양공주, 유엔마담 그리고 화냥년"]. Dong-a Ilbo. 2000.11.03. Retrieved 2013-04-08. 
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  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 "[EDITORIALSDeliver them from 'hell'"]. Joongang Daily. 2002-10-19. Retrieved 2013-04-08. 
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  27. "萬七千三百名(만칠천삼백명) 全國接待(전국접대)및慰安婦總數(위안부총수)". 치안국보안과. 1953-12-12. 
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  47. "'박정희 리스트'로 고구마 캐듯 수사김창룡이 '구명'제안, 백선엽이 결심". OhmyNews. 2004-08-10. Retrieved 2013-05-22. 
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