May 22, 2013
Moguro Fukuzou
History of Prostitution in Korea


Those who believe in gJapanese Imperial Armyfs coercion of 200,000 women into sex slaveryh may consider that Korea back in 1930s and 40s was a place where all people could enjoy, or should have enjoyed, the same human rights we have today.

Actually, it is they, the Korean men, who have treated females badly even from the eyes of oriental standards, where males were generally more respected than females.

Arakawa Gorou, a member of the House of Representatives, who traveled in Korea in 1906 just before Japan's Annexation of Korea, was shocked by the low status of Korean women and put that in his kook gChosen Saikin Jijou (The Most Recent Situation in Korea).h Korean women had no protection from higher authority in family or society that those in the rest of the world enjoyed under Civilian Rules.

Prostitution was rampant everywhere in Korea and still is today. It is well known back in 1950s that the Korean Government operated brothels for the U.S-led allied forces in the Korean War to earn foreign currency money. Throughout 1960s and 70s, and even well into 80s, so-called gKisaeng Tripsh (trips organized by travel bureaus which provide sexual services by Kisaeng Girls) were famous around the world. Korea is the major exporter of prostitution today. Korea outlawed prostitution in 2004, just 10 years ago.

Shame on you, Koreans! Do not blame Japan for what you have done yourselves! It is you who had sold your daughters and sisters into brothels. It is you who played the role of brokers of human trafficking, by purchasing girls from their parents and selling them as comfort women to Army-operated brothels called gComfort Stations.h It is you who had operated Comfort Station for the Japanese Army, the U.S. Army, and the Korean Army in Vietnam.

To investigate whether my statement is true or false, we shall take a look at the following brief history of prostitution in Korea.

Pre-Annexation Era (on or before 1910)

Kisaeng are girls trained to entertain ambassadors, high ranking officials and aristocratic guests by music and dance at royal banquet. Kisaeng girls not only attend at court parties as an entertainer but also sleep with guests as a prostitute.

The tradition of Kisaeng can be traced back to the era of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). When Mongols invaded Korea, the Goryeo Dynasty provided thousands of females to the conqueror. (It is understandable as Mongols used Korea as its army base to invade Japan, although they were repulsed both times in 1274 and 1284.) The Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) had a dynastic government agency which administered Kisaeng girls both at its central offices in the present-day Seoul and regional offices in remote areas. Unlike privately run entertainers, those girls belonged to the dynastic government. These women were called "official talents" and offered music/dancing entertainment and sexual services to the court aristocrats. Some of them were given to the Chinese dynasties of Ming and Qing as gtributeh to show Korean allegiance to China. The Chinese aristocrats used them as ladies-in-waiting or made them private concubines.

It seems girls started to learn to be Kisaeng from very early age.

During Annexation (from 1911 to 1945)

The following photos show (1) a Kisaeng School (2) brothels for the Japanese and (3) brothels for the Koreans. In those days, poverty-stricken Korean people often sold their daughters to a Kisaeng House or brothels. Prostitution by Kisaeng/brothel girls has been legitimate in Korea until September, 2004.


(left) Kisaeng School
(below left) Brothels for the Japanese
(below right) Brothels for the Koreans

Considering the fact that (1) the brothels were everywhere in Korea and so many prostitutes were available, (2) the Japanese Army could afford to pay many times a monthly salary of government officials of the day, and (3) many girls actually volunteered to become comfort women to earn money, why is it necessary for the Japanese Army to kidnap women under violence to coerce them into comfort women system?

After Annexation (after 1945)

The U.S. now takes the position of a master nation Koreans serve. Look at the present-day Korean comfort women waiting for their customers from inside the glass-made cases.

According to the survey conducted just before prostitution was outlawed in 2004, approximately 260,000 women, which is 1 in 25 Korean women within the age bracket of 20 -34 years old, were engaged in prostitution and the prostitution industry amounted to US$ 26 billion, which is 5% of Korea's GDP in 2001.