Sex, Marriage, and Prostitution in South Korea

(Source: RaySoda)

With my considerable gratitude to its author for passing it on, I’ll let the following email speak for itself:

…As a foreign woman married to a Korean man, myself and my husband face a unique set of cultural obstacles in our marriage. It can be trying at times, but we are usually able to work out our differences through a serious commitment to communication. However, there is one aspect of being married to a Korean man that I continually struggle with. From what I have observed throughout my time in Korea (and please correct me if I’m wrong), it seems that frequenting prostitutes is an accepted part of life for Korean married men. In fact, it is often required of businessmen if they want to be successful and accepted among their coworkers. For example, I have a friend who was offered a highly coveted position with a certain large corporation. While working there, he was required to regularly go out drinking and visiting prostitutes with his team. Given the strong hierarchical nature of Korean society, he felt unable to say no to his superiors, yet his religious beliefs compelled him to reject this lifestyle. As a result, he had no other choice but to quit and try to find another line of work.

I am told by Korean friends that going out drinking and womanizing with coworkers is an integral part of business in Korea (and, I imagine, another way that female employees are excluded and held back in business). Although this was shocking to me at first, it wasn’t hard to believe once I became more familiar with the language and more observant of my surroundings. It’s impossible to go anywhere in this country without being faced with a constant barrage of prostitution venues. Of course, they often masquerade as something else- massage parlors, karaoke rooms, barber shops, tea shops, PC rooms, bars, rest houses, etc., but they all offer at least the possibility of sex. It’s not exactly comforting to walk around in the middle of the day and see middle-aged men in business suits going into cheap motels on their lunch breaks or after work before returning home to their families. Although I know my husband is a good man and he has assured me that he’ll never engage in that type of behavior, I find it hard to trust him completely when every man in his life, including his father, his friends, and his mentors, sets this kind of example.

When I ask my female friends how Korean women put up with this from their husbands, they tell me that it’s what the men must do if they are to be successful. One said that even though the husbands stay out all night with prostitutes, drink with them, touch their bodies, etc., it is their choice whether or not they go all the way. I simply can’t wrap my head around this rationalization. Where I come from, if a spouse cheats, it is expected that the couple will either get divorced or go into some serious marriage counseling. It is not simply tolerated, or at least not by those who have any self-respect. As I love my husband deeply, my greatest fear is that he will give in to his peers and join them some time, resulting in the end of our marriage. I can’t conceive of how Korean men can not only hurt and disrespect their wives like this, but also spend all their time fraternizing with coworkers and women rather than spending it with their children. This aspect of Korean culture is toxic to families, and is one of the reasons I don’t believe I could raise a family in Korea. I am truly interested to hear how other married women – both Korean and foreigners – deal with this problem. Have they experienced the same fears that I have, or have their experiences been different? Do they tolerate their husbands going out with coworkers and meeting women, and if so, why? Finally, for those like me who are greatly disturbed by this aspect of the culture, how do they overcome these anxieties and learn to trust their husbands? (end)

( “Shinjuku Salaryman” by Camera Freak. Source above: Unknown )

As I too would soon quit any job that required regularly drinking with colleagues, let alone visiting prostitutes, then I don’t have anything to add to the email I’m afraid. But I can point you towards my discussion of the effects on married couples’ sex lives, based around my review of Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman by Sumie Kawakami (2007); as I explain there, the experiences and attitudes described there are very relevant to Korean couples, largely because both countries share the same salaryman working culture, with husbands (and indeed wives) working late most evenings.

Also, by coincidence Michael Hurt at the Scribblings of the Metropolitician has just written a post on Korean society’s denial of the pervasiveness, ubiquity, and above all systematic nature of prostitution that is highly relevant to the discussion here. A snippet:

…I posit that the resistance to what every outsider observes as KOREAN SOCIAL REALITY in terms of the commodification and subjugation of women in this society, especially as embodied in the rampant institutionalized prostitution that is as observable in terms of the sheer numbers and types of such places of business (room salons, business clubs, barber shops, massage parlors, handjob rooms, juicy bars, miin-chon, 단란주점, 도우미 노래방, which goes without even mentioning the vast numbers of red-light districts in every part of Seoul and every city in Korea) NARY REQUIRES statistics, either.

What I see as the frequent resistance of people to believe something that is OBVIOUS in observed reality if one simply COUNTS the number of houses of prostitution on a single city block in any part of this city — Kangnam Station to Shinchon to City Hall to Apkujeong to Chungdam to nearly any neighborhood after midnight, when the plastic balloons, mini-trucks, and neon signs come on that aren’t on during the day — is partially a denial of obvious reality, coupled with the urge to throw out the many statistics that bolster easy observation because they make one very uncomfortable.

(Source: !Jinju)

But I’m a human being. I understand emotions. But what makes it so easy for me to recognize that the US brutally kidnapped, displaced, and murdered MILLIONS of human beings for the sake of material gain, which has resulted in creating some negative aspects to my culture, i.e. discrimination and institutionalized racism? But when I mention institutionalized prostitution as a legacy of compressed and authoritarian development in the Korean context, people instantly start equivocating and dismissing my argument, while holding it to such an abnormally high bar of scrutiny, one would be hard-pressed to assert ANYTHING particular about Korean society….(end)

Read the rest there.

122 thoughts on “Sex, Marriage, and Prostitution in South Korea

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  2. Speaking from the viewpoint of an American married to a Korean wife, I can say that my wife was firmly against me ever going out alone; however, she was quite tolerant even to the point of encouraging me to go out with friends and co-workers once or twice a month.

    I believe the rationale is that if one is alone then he’s more likely to foster an emotional attachment with another woman whereas if he’s with friends or co-workers then they are less likely to form relationships in the context of fleeting hedonism under the influence of alcohol. Love and sex in the Korean psyche are not as conjoined as they are in the US.

    I want to caveat that by saying we never partook in prostitution, although we did frequent juicy bars and occasionally had doumis in noraebangs.

    Also, I think the comraderie does in fact have a positive impact on interpersonal relationships in the work environment. I was much less concerned about co-workers’ backstabbing and vying for power in Korea than I have been in stateside settings.

    • man you’re whipped. I’m an asian guy dating a white girl. I never would think of cheating on her, but she also doesn’t freak shit on me. Once or twice a month!? Dang…. hope that leash isn’t choking you too hard.

    • The comraderie may be good for men, but it does not include women… it sets up an invisible barrier to advancements/promotions. It shows how the workplace is very male-centered and promotes systematic oppression and discrimination against women.

      • Male comraderie does no such thing. As usual a female or someone only observing from a female centric viewpoint is demanding men change and conform from their natural behavior for the benefit of females. Females it should be noted; who are entering and competing in a MALE designed and dominated environment. Men don’t care if women enter their domain. Many times qualified women are welcome. The problem arises when women start demanding changes that only benifit them, and in essence change the whole dynamic to something no longer natural or of any benifit to men.

        Notice men NEVER do this to female socials groups or dynamics. The real question is why do women feel so compelled to pursue male interest or prove themselves in male dominated environments?

        As to the cheating, lets be real; a hot, eager, and horny wife never worries about her husband seeking satisfaction somewhere else…

        • So you are saying that this world is dominated by men and it should stay so? You talk about natural behaviour so for you it’s actually natural to go looking for prostitues as a way of bonding with your colleagues when you have a wife waiting for you at home, nice! going out drinking does not pose a problem for females as you may think, it’s the prostitution that goes hand in hand. Would you be okay with it that in outings men and women go see prostitutes (male AND female prostitues)? I don’t think so, and actually that would make us both men and women sick. What females demand is not an environment made for them, but and environment made for ALL. Why should it be a male environment when in reality there’s a great percentage of the world population that is female? of course changing the dynamics if it benefits men is alrighty with you?

          And mind you but no they don’t do it because even in environments that ARE mostly female dominated (such as being a nurse or a teacher) the responsibility charges will go mostly to MEN, so really they have no need to change anything. And actually we don’t feel compelled to compete with males or prove ourselves in male dominated environments, it’s called one’s vocation and when you have a dream and you want to be something you don’t think of it as “oh, I’m going to prove myself in a male dominated environnement”. The problem arises when they face the reality and SEE the differences and say WTF?! no fair! and actually… it isn’t fair.

          And then following your logic a hot, horny and eager wife that waits for her husband, who has seen a prostitue and therefore doesn’t really want to have sex when he arrives, is entitled to search a lover to satisfy her needs for love and affection, and if there are kids well fuck them. You have a really happy family going on in there…I don’t think that relationships and married life depend solely on sex, and I don’t want to believe that for men that is so, but anyways you’re entitled to your opinions as I am to mine.

  3. I’d like to be presumptuous and point people who are interested in the direction of this post that is actually one I wrote in response to another one of James’ a while back. I’m linking to it here so I don’t have to go over anything I wrote there again.

    I think this is a very unusual phenomenon to grasp unless you’re a part of it, but I’ll throw in my thoughts for what it’s worth. Firstly, I’d like to say that we have no idea how widespread it actually is. I’m well aware of how widespread it seems, but I think it’s worth pointing out that perhaps those who do it do it a lot, while those who don’t do it just don’t do it, making it seem more widespread in general than it is, when instead it’s a smaller number of people participating in this a disproportionate amount. A bit like the fact that the vast majority of netizen opinion is only really the opinion of a small number of high schoolers.

    So, I think we should at least be open to the idea that it is not as widespread a problem as appearances might suggest. However, the simple fact of the matter is that it does exist, so why?

    James has posted many times on the use of women almost as sexual decorations – for entertainment, to sell things, just to look pretty, to get attention, etc. Granted, this happens everywhere, but I’d would say it’s possibly more prevalent in Korea than in this emailer’s home country, wherever that may be (I’m assuming English-speaking Western country). And I think this is a part of what this issue is in reality. Sex is not always involved, even when the use of women as “sexual decorations” or whatever is. So, drinking with women who get paid to drink with men, having them brought into a noraebang does not necessarily mean they will have sex with any of the customers. I personally feel that the use of women in this way is far too justified by the way they are used and represented in society at large – narrator models, commercials etc. I think when men are letting off steam, away from the public, this natural objectification of women in society is brought to the fore in these forms. I know this may sound like I’m accusing the whole of Korean society of constantly objectifying women, I’m not, but it’s a noticeable enough pattern and I’ve provided examples.

    So, we have the societal objectification of women moving from being more impersonal in public spheres – narrator models – to becoming more personal (and less respectable in society) in more private, personal spheres, such as when a group of male colleagues are out together in a noraebang. I’m not condoning or disapproving of anything here, the point I’m making is that I believe this takes different forms and for different reasons – so far I haven’t discussed about actual sex or prostitution.

    As for that, I would refer you back to my post linked at the start. I find it hard to properly explain my views on prostitution and sex in Korea, because they’re feelings and opinions that have formed based on just living in Korea, being around Koreans and observing. It’s very difficult for me to provide evidence or statistics. However, I think that there is an often-held conception in Korean society that men can’t help wanting to have sex with different women. As the first commenter, Mark, says, sex in Korea is often not so closely associated with relationships and emotions as we believe it is for us. This is a social thing, a social product, if you will, and is very hard to criticise, as it’s basically just different, as opposed to wrong. So it ends up that men having sex with prostitutes to fulfill what is seen as a natural and therefore understandable need is tolerated by some wives. The biggest issue with this is that the sexuality of the wives is ignored (again, see my post). If it were not, it’s more likely men would be having sex with their wives, instead. Or perhaps the wives would be equally allowed to go out and visit male prostitutes or lovers.

    Finally, we cannot underestimate the effect of peer-pressure in this issue. I’ve never worked in a Korean company, and so I’m not speaking from personal experience, but I do know many people who do, Korean and non-Korean. As the emailer clearly understands herself, sometimes it’s viewed as a requirement to get along with the rest of one’s colleagues and to be accepted, followed by becoming successful. Can this be changed? I don’t know. What I do feel certain of is that not every workplace has expectations such as these, there’s no guarantee that it will happen to a given person or in a given company. Moreover, I genuinely believe that it’s a practice that’s dying out. I think as the equality and empowerment of women grows in Korea (and it is growing, just too slowly) this approach to how women can essentially be used by men, as decorations, entertainment or on-the-side lovers, is decreasing. More and more of the younger generations of males are staunchly against this type of thing. Gender studies is a growing discipline in universities. People have more and more freedom to date who they want, and to form their own relationships. It’s a deeply held notion that it happens and that almost all men do it, but these notions are often found to be formed by the older minority in Korea.

    Therefore I would say to the emailer, if your husband tells you he does not and will not participate in this sort of thing, believe him. Yes, it happens. Yes, it’s a problem, but quite possibly not to the extent that we think, and it’s constantly becoming less and less widespread.

    Apologies for the long comment.

  4. She’s certainly not alone. I get emails regularly from foreigners dating/married to Korean men who are suspect of what their partner’s are up to after work. I answered one publicly that relates to the room salon and beyond.

    http://asktheexpat.blogspot.com/2009/08/room-salons-in-south-korea-whos-going.html

    What I find most interesting is how middle-aged Korean women who have been dealing with this for a long time do one of two things: 1) separate themselves by becoming intentionally sexless and apathetic or 2) leave their husbands after the kids are out of the house.

    Young women still manage to deny/dilute themselves so much that they make weak rationalizations like “it’s what the men must do if they are to be successful.” -That’s just the line that their cheating spouse fed them.

    Older women would simply state, “I don’t care anymore.”

    • “Young women still manage to deny/dilute themselves so much that they make weak rationalizations like “it’s what the men must do if they are to be successful.” -That’s just the line that their cheating spouse fed them. “- I would like to add one more. Every men has an affair, if not, 99%. that’s what Koreans say, but all the women believe that ‘Not mine” – every newly or middle aged women believe this until they found out one day that the husband has/had an affair.

      Older women would simply state, “I don’t care anymore.” – This is the case when the man is having an affair so many times and the wife gives up on him and she lead her own life without concentrating on him. It a is lonely life. She may live with him without divorce or leave him when the children leave high school. it is hard to break a family in Korea, because they think of childrenr’s future marriage. Often family brake up does not good impression and it hinders their children’s marriage. Even though the society is changing fast, it still prevails.

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  6. I think Mark makes a great point with “…sex in Korea is often not so closely associated with relationships and emotions as we believe it is for us.” Even back in the old days of Korea, your wedding day may have been your first time to really meet the person, and you were still expected to have sex on the wedding night (with people watching if movies from the era are to be believed). I can’t remember where I read it, but somewhere I read a quote describing marriage in Korea as being “…too important to be left to love,” to describe why a young couple that wanted to get married was not allowed to, and the forced into arranged marriages. And, of course, if the man didn’t like his wife, there were still chances to meet prostitutes.

    It seems like “sex” and “love” have been separate for a long time in Korea. I do feel bad for Korean women that they seem to be the ones that lose out on the sex.

    In the U.S., where monogamy is a deeply held value, I’ve seen surveys showing astronomical rates of infidelity. Part of me thinks the way the Korean culture handles the issue of infidelity may be healthier overall as it seems to embrace it (except for the fact that it’s actually illegal, though difficult to enforce).

    I seem to remember that when all the sex workers came out to protest the [at that time] new crackdown on prostitution a few years back, there was a sizable contingent of ajummas that were also protesting it, which in itself is kind of interesting.

    Actually, I didn’t even want to get into the debate myself. Rather, it was my intention just to relate what I heard from a friend about his company a couple years ago. They were trying to land a big contract with another company. The lead negotiator for the other company happened to be a woman. They were having a hard time in the negotiations with her, but one day she made a side comment about a handsome young male office worker there that had just joined the company.

    The Director of the division then met with the office worker, telling him about the big future he has with the company and how he needs to do his duty to help the company and he’ll make it big, etc, etc. Then he dropped the bomb that they wanted him, a newlywed and devout Christian (not that Christians never cheat), to go on a romantic all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii with the woman they were negotiating with. He was dead-set against it at first, but after a lot of wining and dining, in the end, he finally went along with it.

    The company got the contract.

    Not sure if that contributes to the discussion at all, but it’s some fun gossip anyway.

  7. Interesting post from a women’s perspective…

    Seamus wrote:
    “So, I think we should at least be open to the idea that it is not as widespread a problem as appearances might suggest.”

    Seamus I’m afraid you couldn’t be more wrong and here’s why. I am the only foreigner in my company. It is American owned but entirely independant and has a very Korean corporate culture. The fact is that ALL Korean men will go their roughly once a month and for others even once a week. Let me make this clear, when I say all I mean the newlyweds, those who are religous and frequently attend church, those with newborn babies and pregnant wives… EVERYONE!

    Their ability to seperate love and sex is hard to understand from a western viewpoint. I would joke with a coworker who loves to talk about the room salon (either by whispering or live comp chat) but he would become deeply offended if his relationship with his gf was brought into the equation.

    I’m sorry to have to break this to the writer of this thread but the question is not if it happens but how often. If he is paying for it I suggest monitoring his bank statement. The current fee to have sex with a room salon girl is 200,000won. Usually this is paid in cash but it might be lumped together in one card thesedays. If you see a large withdrawl at 1am you might be able to bust him (If that is your intention).

    Again I’m sorry but concerning your statement: “I know my husband is a good man and he has assured me that he’ll never engage in that type of behavior” I have to say. It’s not about being good or bad. He is just doing what Korean business men do and he doesn’t see it as being “bad” or breaking the rules even when he lies.

    Even foreign companies will partake in this to a certain extent but if it’s 100% Korean company there’s no doubt.

    • I’d like to point out that you’re clearly making the assumption that this woman’s husband is doing this, something which there’s no evidence for, and I don’t think is a very fair comment to make. By all means, comment on your observations of this issue in Korea, but you’re in no position to tell someone what their husband gets up to – you can’t possibly know.

      And please don’t misunderstand, I wasn’t saying that it is definitely not as widespread as people think, just that it might not be. Your case, for example, may be a bit more of a one off than you realise. There’s no way to know. And there are obviously no firm statistics for how often and many Korean male workers visit prostitutes as a matter of routine.

  8. To generalize, it is impossible to understand it from a western viewpoint, just as it is impossible for Koreans to understand that westerners don’t pay for their children’s education, marriage or put their parents in retirement villages.
    I think you should trust your husband and show him that he has your confidence and strength, which he needs to not ‘go all the way’ and to remain dedicated to his children and family name.

    • What they said. It’s different expression of culture that as an outsider you will never understand.

      Side note: the west is exactly the same, we just have heavy religious influences to pay lip service too. I’d dare say that in the west we look even more lecherous because of the constant mental gymnastics of justifying secret affairs (men) and rampant promiscuous behavior form our single and newly divorced (and married) women. Sex is such a big deal to us because we lie to ourselves and work so hard to deny human nature. In Asia they have their eyes wide open when it comes to such things.

  9. Am I correct in saying that this “wining, dining and possibly more” practice is the same as the so called jeopatae (접대) culture? It must be, as no other word comes to my mind and I remember hearing it being used in this context.

    I’d think that as more and more young people are able to choose their own marriage partners (cf. in the past almost all marriages were organised by relatives), this practice, or at least the part of providing sexual services, must become more infrequent. Well, at least when the older generation with their old practices and mindsets finally retire, that is.

    In the past Korean marriage was something you had to do — a duty to your family if you will — and not something you did for you or your own reasons. I’ve even heard of cases where the people met for the second time when they got married.

    In a reality such as this, the birth of an male heir — another major duty to your family and ancestors — may understandably lead to cessation of sex between the couple. Maybe the wife will only be happy about this, as she never even really liked the man she was forced to marry with?

  10. “The biggest issue with this is that the sexuality of the wives is ignored (again, see my post). If it were not, it’s more likely men would be having sex with their wives, instead. Or perhaps the wives would be equally allowed to go out and visit male prostitutes or lovers.”

    I wonder if women would be equally likely to pay for sex. I believe the percentage of married men and women who have extramarital affairs is about the same in the US, but male prostitution is rare. One can speculate on the reasons for this. First, it is probably easier for women to find reasonably attractive casual sexual partners than men. Second, women are more reluctant to have sex with strangers.

    Back to the OP, I think the wife should trust her husband and not play detective and snoop into bank accounts and the like. If she cannot trust him, the lack of trust itself is a problem. The main concern I would have in this situation is the increased risk of contracting an STD. If I thought there was a remote possibility that a partner was sexually active with others, I would get tested regularly. Condoms do not offer 100% protection against all STDs, in particular the cancer-causing strains of HPV, which can live in the area around the genitals.

    • Agreed, the sexual dynamics are 180degrees opposite for males and females. Male prostitutes and strippers are never in demand except by other men. Besides contrary to popular modern feminist think, women truly aren’t as sex driven as men. This is not to say they don’t enjoy it as much as men, just that they don’t have the incessant constantly burning drive to obtain sex like men do. For us it’ a constant hunger, for women not so much. It’s more emotionally and time of the month driven.

      That’s said, STDs should be a major concern for any wife in a culture like Korea’s. Although contrary to popular belief, prostitutes generally are far more dedicated to safe sex than your average woman.

  11. Miss Haut

    I certainly don’t have any evidence that your husband is cheating on you. I don’t know your husband and cannot know beyond a certain doubt that he his having sex with these women.

    I am just expressing what I see. There are more than 400 male employees that I work with in this company and presonnally I don’t know 1 that doesn’t do it. Like I said, here the question is not “Do you go” it is “How often”.

    Marco said:
    “I’d think that as more and more young people are able to choose their own marriage partners (cf. in the past almost all marriages were organised by relatives), this practice, or at least the part of providing sexual services, must become more infrequent. ”

    Again I have my doubts on this one. This practice happens more with the younger newer employees than the older ones. There may be a variety of reason for this. However what I have observed is that men starting in a company anticipate this as a kind of right-of-passage if you will. Perhaps before it was practiced more for actual business purposes with potential clients and the likes. However, much like the car they buy and never drive, it makes them feel more like they’re part of the team. I would even go as far as to say many of them can’t even get it up! but go through the motions anyway just to keep up the reputation.

    I have worked with Korean men for more than a decade and personally I still haven’t been able to figure out why they do what they do…and perhaps I never will.

  12. Forgive me if this sounds a little naive, but I’ve often wondered, and now I have Lifer11 and Steve (at the very least) to ask. Not to imply that either of you have used the services of prostitutes yourselves of course, but you have met and/or work with people who make no secret of doing so, so you have a better chance of knowing than me…

    My question is: do you think it is possible to go to brothels and so on with coworkers, and – crucially – be seen by them to go off to a room or motel or whatever with a prostitute, but not actually have sex with her (yes, presumably she would still need paying, but I doubt that she’d mind). I mean, presumably there are at least some ambitious but also faithful Korean men that attempt such subterfuge?

    Alternatively, would it really be that bad for their careers and/or aggressive, “masculine” reputations (same thing, presumably) if they went out drinking etc., but politely declined the sex? Surely there must be – God forbid – some Christians and/or monogomous Korean men who are still considered one of the boys for drinking, still get promoted and so on, and yet aren’t literally forced into either having sex with prostitutes or effectively having to quit their jobs?

  13. James…I’ve never seen them having sex (or not) but I have been to a room salon with them. I have always left first…Usually to Itaewon or Hongdae in search of the non paying type.

    I cannot comment on the statistics of them NOT having sex with these girls but it’s highly unlikely as most of them are quite hot.

    What I can say is that strangely the men are not there to have sex. Yes you heard it…they get a high off of these girls hanging off them giving them copous amounts of attention (as a mother does her child). Sex takes a back seat to this high. However with the liquid courage they’re downing and the complimentary hand job who could refuse?

    • “James…I’ve never seen them having sex (or not) but I have been to a room salon with them. I have always left first…Usually to Itaewon or Hongdae in search of the non paying type.

      I cannot comment on the statistics of them NOT having sex with these girls but it’s highly unlikely as most of them are quite hot.”

      Wait a minute. A visit to the room salon is usually paid for by one member. It’s not dutch treat. Am I to understand you have turned down opportunities to be with one of these hotties, courtesy of a colleague?

      I’ve always wondered how common it is for single or married Western men to try sex with a prostitute at least once if not indulge regularly while living in Korea. Western men may be more reluctant than Korean men to acknowledge having sex with prostitutes because sex with a freebie is seen as more honorable. The woman wants you, not your money.

  14. Oh and your last question…
    “Alternatively, would it really be that bad for their careers and/or aggressive, “masculine” reputations (same thing, presumably) if they went out drinking etc., but politely declined the sex? Surely there must be – God forbid – some Christians and/or monogomous Korean men who are still considered one of the boys for drinking, still get promoted and so on, and yet aren’t literally forced into either having sex with prostitutes or effectively having to quit their jobs?”

    Like I said…they believe they’ve earned this. Right of passage n all that. They dare not pass it up. I haven’t met one yet who has. Ofcourse they won’t lose their jobs…it really isn’t about that. Perhaps your getting confused with the girls who refuse to drink alcohol with their coworkers losing their jobs. That’s a little different and is getting better I would say.

  15. I want to thank everyone for their comments and their honestly on this topic. As a foreign woman, it’s hard to find people who will tell me the truth about this sort of thing, but I feel empowered by knowledge more than anything under these circumstances.

    First of all, Mark, I’m surprised that your wife would prefer you to go out with friends and coworkers rather than alone, because it seems to me that cheating is more of a group activity- a sort of male-bonding thing- here in Korea. Why would men here want another complicated relationship when there’s cheap sex thrown at them from every direction? I can’t agree that this sort of behavior is justified as a means to improving interpersonal relationships at work. Certainly, there are healthier ways to bond than group blow jobs. And even if there weren’t, a close relationship with coworkers is never worth a broken family.

    Seamus Walsh: Your link was very interesting, especially the part about the desexualization of Korean women after marriage. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but why else would these women perm their hair and throw on the tacky floral windsuits and visors if they weren’t completely saying goodbye to their sexuality? In all seriousness, I do feel that wives often act as mother to their husbands, which is a part of the reason that Korean men never seem to mature emotionally. They are cared for by their mothers until marriage, and then by their wives after. They never have the chance to develop any independence or autonomy, and live in their own small-minded ajosshi worlds until the day they die. The idea that wives can also be viewed in a sisterly way I think goes back to old days when very young girls were often married off before they even hit puberty, sent to live with their husband’s family as a “daughter” (although they were treated more like slaves than family). Overall, I very much agree with your comment, although from living here the past several years, I do believe that it is safe to assume that the practice of visiting prostitutes with coworkers is quite widespread, and if anything is more so than we realize. It is reinforced through the media (it’s hard to find a movie involving businessmen that doesn’t have a room salon or compensated dating scene), and unfortunately, various forms of media seem to be where most young people get their sex education.

    The Expat: I agree that seems to be how Korean women deal with it. There’s no way they don’t know what goes on. That was a very informative link, and I appreciate it. “I have also talked about this to married women and all of them choose to believe that their husband is simply working late. That may or may not be true, but they don’t see the value in asking too many questions about it. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.” I hope that I don’t come across as this type of woman, because I have always been the type to choose the most painful truth over a pleasant lie. My husband is not the typical Korean, which goes without saying as he married a foreigner, and if he was the type to go out to noraebangs with coworkers until 3am, I certainly wouldn’t have married him.

    Steve: I’m going to have to disagree with some of what you said. I’m American, and I will never believe that American rates of infidelity equal that of Koreans. Sure, lots of men cheat, but in the West, cheating usually consists of having an affair or one-night stand, whereas in Korea it consists of weekly visits to prostitutes. If I had to choose between my husband slipping up once and sleeping with some woman he met at a bar and him frequenting prostitutes and exposing me to a wealth of STDs, I would without a doubt choose the former. Surveys probably show only those who have cheated at least once throughout the course of their marriage, disregarding the number of times. Choosing to frequent prostitutes is an obvious sign that a man holds no respect whatsover for his wife as a human being. Besides, I can say with relative confidence that all the important men in my life have managed to be faithful husbands and good fathers. I’m not naive and I know to usually expect the worst out of people, but I can honestly say that I know some really good men back home. My father, for one, always came home immediately after work. He never went out with friends- his free time was spent with his family. He never even drank a drop of alcohol since he got married and had kids. Perhaps you won’t believe me, but I would stake my life on the belief that he has always been faithful to my mother in their 27 years of marriage. Maybe my father is not typical, but I don’t think he is exceptional, either. Certainly cultural beliefs about fidelity and his own religious beliefs play the biggest part in his lifestyle, but his environment plays a part, too. You say that Korean culture may handle the issue of infidelity in a more healthy way by embracing it, but I couldn’t disagree more. As the expression goes- out of sight, out of mind. The typical Korean man is confronted by sexual temptation as soon as he walks out the door. There are cards with naked women for sale under his windshield wiper, he passes numerous massage parlors and juicy bars on his way to work, and of course after work, we all know what happens. He can’t even spend ten minutes on the internet without seeing ads for compensated date partners. Compare this to other parts of the world, where prostitution often invisible. It’s possible for a man to engage in it, but he’ll have to do some searching and only have a limited selection of women available to him. Also, in Western society, there is the stigma that men who go to prostitutes are pathetic losers who can’t get a woman to sleep with them otherwise. In Korea, all the rich, successful men on TV are shown frequenting room salons. To me, it is undeniable that Korean men are made to think about paying for sex far more than Western men, and as a result, act on it with much greater frequency. You might argue that men can’t control themselves and cheating in whatever form is inevitable, but I’d argue that they’re better than that. They were born with a mind that can surpass the basic animal instincts and strive to ideals. I haven’t quite given up on them yet, nor have I given up on my husband.

    Lifer11: Thanks for your honesty. I’m always interested to hear an inside viewpoint of how this system works. Although that’s a troubling thing to hear, I do agree with you that the vast majority of businessmen engage in this behavior. Luckily for me, my husband has only recently graduated, and not in a business-related field. Plus, he has agreed to move out of Korea with me soon, so I won’t have to worry about him much longer. Ever since I started dating him and hearing all the horror stories from my friends, I have to admit I’ve become an expert detective. I know it’s generally wrong to violate a partner’s privacy and check bank accounts, etc., but I felt that given the culture, I would have been a fool not to try to find out if he was “that type of man” before marrying him. I haven’t found any solid evidence yet, and hopefully can retire from my detective work as soon as we move out of this country. By the way, “I would even go as far as to say many of them can’t even get it up!” That’s why dog meat is still so popular in this country.

    Sorry for the ridiculously long comment. I’m still waiting to hear from the ladies!!

    • I am a lady but not married to a Korean. My advice was to trust him and not go looking for evidence. If you can’t trust him, that lack of trust is itself a problem that may cause trouble in the marriage.

  16. One more thing I should probably add: with all this sex and sexuality that can be bought in Korea, it’s important to make the leap to realising that sex is a product and a commodity. In a society where what you buy often signifies how successful you are, being able to use money for something as fundamentally unnecessary as prostitution or “sex-as-entertainment” turns it into something of a status symbol to some people, I would imagine. Is that the reason all the people who do it do? No, but I think it might have some subconscious effect.

    For another unique insight into this, the excellent blog Jumping the Asymptote has two typically insightful pieces on the use of prostitutes in the Korean military, which I think is very closely related to this issue considering how much military service culture influences workplace culture, found here and here.

    • Seamus, you must be a woman. Did you really just say that prostitution or sex as entertainment is fundamentally unnecessary?!

  17. Those are two great posts, Seamus. Now that I think of it in light of this, maybe the Korean officers and enlisted I was with restrained themselves just because they were with an American and didn’t want to give a bad impression?

  18. Thanks for the very interesting links about sex in the military, Seamus. Korean friends have told me that when a man enters the military, it is a rite of passage for the other soldiers to take him to a prostitute. Apparently, this is how many men lose their virginity in Korea. It seems that a man’s time in the military introduces him to the world of prostitution and creates a lifelong habit of engaging in it as a means of bonding with other males.

  19. First of all, here’s a quick link about adultery numbers in Korea.

    http://ow.ly/ZzPL

    I’d like to add a couple thoughts. In my time here, I’ve seen and heard of countless deals and business relationships being forged in the room salons and the “second place”. It’s simply protocol, especially for men who own their own company. They might spend 10,000 dollars on the evening, but the deal will bring in 25,000 for the man/owner/company. It’s this aspect of the business culture that typically leads to acceptance, however blind, by the wife. In their mind, they weigh their options. What’s worse? A nasty divorce and the perceived shame that goes with it (not to mention what happens if kids are involved) or simply turning the other way?

    Also, I feel like we’re ignoring the fact that many women are out there doing the same thing. Sure, they might not be going to the room salons, but they are frequenting Host bars or having the affairs on their own time. While the adultery number is considerably lower for women (79-13), the difference is that women are doing this without the coercion of the boss. They’re banging on their own time, perhaps out of a latent urge for revenge.

    The feeling that I often get from both men and women (especially those over 35) is that their husband/wife is more of a burden than a blessing. I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised though. The only age where Koreans are truly free of teachers, bosses, parents and authority in general is college (or after service). Marriage just reminds them of being kids again and having to report to someone.

    Oh, and oftentimes, if there are a lot of non-Koreans in the group, the room salon tends to be Russian rather than Korean. Not a surprise there either.

  20. “For another unique insight into this, the excellent blog Jumping the Asymptote has two typically insightful pieces on the use of prostitutes in the Korean military, which I think is very closely related to this issue considering how much military service culture influences workplace culture, found here and here.”

    -This is so true! They report to their boss like a soldier reports to his sergent and ALWAYS run when called into his office. This leaves me confused looking for the fire!

    “Wait a minute. A visit to the room salon is usually paid for by one member. It’s not dutch treat. Am I to understand you have turned down opportunities to be with one of these hotties, courtesy of a colleague?”

    -Although this is occassionally paid for by 1. In the vast majority of instances sex is NOT paid for and is an extra amount you must lump in on your own. Sex usually occurs after the boss goes home. The boss pays for the meal, drinks etc. IF the boss stays he may pay for more but that doesn’t happen often. I have heard of buying rounds though; where one guy gets it this time around and you must get it the next time etc. I am pretty low down in my company too so I think rank has something to do with it. Newbies must pay their own while executives might put it on the expense account etc.

  21. James posted:

    “My question is: do you think it is possible to go to brothels and so on with coworkers, and – crucially – be seen by them to go off to a room or motel or whatever with a prostitute, but not actually have sex with her (yes, presumably she would still need paying, but I doubt that she’d mind). I mean, presumably there are at least some ambitious but also faithful Korean men that attempt such subterfuge?

    Alternatively, would it really be that bad for their careers and/or aggressive, “masculine” reputations (same thing, presumably) if they went out drinking etc., but politely declined the sex? Surely there must be – God forbid – some Christians and/or monogomous Korean men who are still considered one of the boys for drinking, still get promoted and so on, and yet aren’t literally forced into either having sex with prostitutes or effectively having to quit their jobs?”

    My company maybe atypical but there are people here who don’t drink for religious reasons and we do not bother them about it. For an internal 회식, visiting a room salon is done tacitly, sometimes with a corporate credit card to pay the bill, but sex is on your own funds. There are several people who abstain from that kind of thing and there are others that go every time. Mostly, people take the bj (included in the price) at the end of the session and therefore do not need to move on to a motel.

    We also do a lot of client entertaining and the bosses will not take people along that are not of the partying kind. Perhaps it effects their career path and perhaps it does not, I haven’t been here long enough to determine that.

    Finally, to answer your question, I talked over with my wife about what to do and she told me I should play along and I do to some extent. When we’ve been on business trips, I’ve taken prostitutes back to my hotel room chatted to them for a couple of hours and then sent them on their way. It sure confuses them. If oyu have any more questions, I’ll be happy to answer them, although my answers are representative of my experience in one company.

    • Hi, Daeguowl I found you to be honest man. You know i am married to korean man and I am ex- gumi style noraebang girl in Kazakhstan. Yes, korean wave is everywhere in the world. Now we live here in Korea. I love my husband. But after he has changed his job in bank for concrete company he said that he will often go out with friends. I know where he is going to go. Could you tell me where usually they go, what kind of entertainment do they attend, usual time of those parties and how much he can afford himself to do.

      • In my experience, what takes place among friends and what takes place as a consequence of entertaining clients or having a team 회식 are very different. When we are entertaining clients, we typically go to a room salon. We select girls to be our partner for the evening and they poor us drinks and feed us fruit and sing songs with us. Some establishments permit touching and some do not (the more you pay, the less you touch seems to be the rule.) At the end of the night, it may be possible to take your girl with you for an extra fee. A lot of company presidents seem to maintain their own girl who they will call to come out and they will set her up with pocket money for the month.

        As for going out with friends, there are a wide range of places to go to. In price order, certain karaoke rooms will call girls for you (they are called 포도 – grapes) and they tend to be university students. Costs vary and I have seen 30,000 per hour or 100,000 for the evening (about 3 hours).

        Alternatively, there red-light districts where you literally window-shop for your girl. I have heard that prices run about 60-70,000 for a 10-15 minute session, but I don’t know for sure.

        There are the ubiquitous massage parlours where you may pay 100-150,000 and where you rarely get any kind of massage.

        Of course there are the regular room salons, but there are also the hard-core room salons, of which a number are located around seollung station. They run in price from 150-200,000 depending on the number of people that go and get you about 90 minutes in a noraebang with the girl of your choice. She will wear nothing but knickers and you can have a bj at the end if you so desire. You can also take them away at the end for an additional fee.

        There are certain other places, which I have niether been to nor heard stories of and therefore will not write about.

        Finally, let me reiterate that there are guys who do not go to these places at all. There are guys who go a lot and there are guys that go along with the flow but avoid the serious stuff (ie. they go to the hard-core rooms but don’t take the BJ.)

  22. Wow. The more I hear about this, the more disheartening it becomes. I knew this happened, but a part of me didn’t believe it entirely. I thought surely I had misunderstood something, but the more I learn about this, the more I see there is no denying it. I hate to say it, but I just hope that other women will read this and think twice before marrying a Korean man. I know it’s harsh, but this behavior seems to be so ingrained in the culture that there’s no escaping it and its harmful effect on marriages and families. And I really hope that Korean women will start respecting themselves and take a stand against this.

    • Yes, to whatever extent it is ingrained in Korean workplace culture, but not necessarily so much in Korean culture in general. Take the Korean out of that work environment and I see no reason why they wouldn’t also leave the prostitution and room salons. Every case is different. Of course in some cases it will still happen, but not in all.

      One thing that I think can be done to try and reduce it is for women to discuss it with their partners early and frankly. I get the impression not many Korean women do this, either telling themselves it doesn’t really happen or knowing it does but being to unwilling to do anything about it. Korean men, therefore, in some instances may be of the opinion that their partners will never find out about it, or if they do will be a bit upset but it will not cause too many problems. On top of that there is most certainly a sense of “but everyone does it.” This affects the way both men and women think about it. It makes men more likely to do it, and women more likely to accept it, if they think there isn’t really an alternative.

      In practice, it can also be very hard for junior employees to refuse to go out with the coworkers. A work night out inevitably involves drinking lots of strong alcohol, and while it used to be the case that people would literally order others to drink, this has stopped, but unspoken pressure to drink is still prevalent. Unfortunately, I think for men in the position where they feel they can’t avoid getting heavily drunk, and being presented with women offering themselves to him, more base instincts may take over.

      I think, therefore, the best thing is to discuss it as fully as possible. Part of the reason this has become such a big problem is people skirting around the real issues. Women in Korean society can be very vocal about this sort of thing, and increasingly males form younger generations are too, but as long as older men and the sorts of people who encourage this behaviour aren’t involved in the discussion, both on a national level and within their own families, nothing will change.

      If you’re looking for advice, the best I can offer is to talk to your husband about it. Make the point as clearly as possible that it is not a part of your culture to be accepting of this sort of behaviour. If you think it serious enough to split up with him for if he ever did it, make sure he knows how sincerely and strongly you feel about this. Because there are many Korean women who don’t feel the same, or don’t believe they’re in a position where they could ever make their true feelings clear. For example, some women are trapped by economics, meaning they can’t divorce their husbands without suffering from economic consequences that they have no way of dealing with. For others its a social or cultural problem, they simply can’t bring themselves to do anything about it.

      I think you must take heart from what your husband has directly said to you. Also, the fact that he chose to marry a non-Korean is likely an indication that he is more aware of culture and social norms outside Korea, and as Koreans at least in private recognise that this is a problem that is more widespread in Korea than just about anywhere else, perhaps it can be assumed that he married you knowing that such behaviour would never be acceptable in your marriage, whereas some Korean men may think that it is acceptable if they are married to a Korean.

      I would say talk to him, frankly, honestly, ask him everything you want to know, encourage him to speak to you, and trust him. As has been mentioned before, you either trust him or you don’t. There are absolutely men in Korean society who do not behave like that. Make sure he understands your personal values and what’s expected from you and in general in your cultural background – Koreans are surprisingly respectful of other cultures when they properly understand them, it’s lack of understanding that’s often the problem.

  23. Thanks, Seamus. I agree that communication is crucial in this case. It does seem that most women for whatever reason don’t discuss this with their husbands seriously. I, for one, have discussed my views thoroughly with my husband, and he both knows that I won’t tolerate it and agrees that it’s a serious social problem. Still, when faced with this reality every time I step outside, it’s hard to put it completely out of mind. I suppose it’s normal to Korean women- they have grown up in this environment and nothing is shocking- so it tends to weigh more heavily on my mind given my background. And I think it always will, as long as we live in Korea.

    For you men, consider how you would feel if after marrying your wife, you found out that as part of her job, she is expected to sleep with her boss once a week. Perhaps she assures you she will only go out for drinks and flirt with him, although you know all her coworkers will give in to the pressure and see nothing wrong with it. I’d imagine it would be hard for any of you to just trust her, relax, and wait for her to come home late at night. The fact that I’m a woman doesn’t make me any more willing to share my spouse than a man would be.

    The truth is, it is easy for even the best men to slip up here, considering the social acceptance of prostitution and its constant availability. I will try to take your advice, though, and trust him as best I can. I know that there must be some men in Korea who don’t do this, and that is a comforting thought.

  24. “For you men, consider how you would feel if after marrying your wife, you found out that as part of her job, she is expected to sleep with her boss once a week.”

    -Sorry but I think you are comparing apples and oranges here. A woman can come home pregnant, a man can’t.

    -Depending on the circumstances a woman is more likely to catch an STD from unprotected sex also.

    I know this will cause an uproar, and I do understand what you are getting at. I agree emotionally it’s the same. However physically very different and because of this I would be less forgiving of the woman.

    • oh, it’s totally different . . . if you live in a world without birth control!

      Physically very different ~ HA! As Yoda says “No! No different! Only different in your mind!”

      The only problem with the initial analogy is that it should be “For you men, consider how you would feel if after marrying your wife, you found out that as part of her job she is expected to go out and suffer the attentions of attractive young men who possibly finger her, give her oral sex, or just plain ol’ have sex with her, because her boss enjoys that kind of entertainment.”

    • Lifer 11, you just stepped in it! You should know you can’t mention these “sacred truths” in an open forum with women.

      And just to prove a point, look up the CDC statistics on female birth control use and STD infection. VERY interesting.

      Not condoning or saying whore mongering or adultery on the male end is right. But the fact is if no one ever finds out, the potential consequences are far less sever or life altering (pregnancy) for a cheating husband vs a cheating wife.

    • No, we’re not ~ while they’re not all necessarily good at because of lack of sex education, social pressures, etc., but most adult Koreans, particularly married ones, are perfectly aware of condoms, etc.

  25. I am married to korean man too. I am from Uzbekistan and I was working as a korean k room salon girl in Uzbekistan too. Yes, this korean shit is everywhere. There are about 10 korean karaoke whore houses in Uzbekistan. I never did go for a second round. I quit my job when I married to my husband. First I met him there. Now I live here in Korea and I hate all this stuff. The only thing I am worried about is does my husband enjoy and like other girls like once he liked me. Anyone here can tell me are those girls are cute and attractive? How old they are?
    I feel insulted cause I am very cute and petite. All my husband friends say that he is lucky man to marry such young and beautiful woman. I just don’t understand what does he lack. In terms of sex I am more hot then he is. He has small dick and it lasts something like 3 minutes. In recent times I begin to express my opinion about our sex life and he seems to be depressed about it. I just tried to explain it in more friendly way. But anyway…
    I think that in the nearest future I will find lover who will satisfy me or become one of those sex-starved korean whores.

    • I do work in the room salon and I am happy. Since I have divorced my fucking korean husband I earn much more money now and have sex everyday. It’s ok to work here. It’s a lot of fun. Hey, girls, don’t deprive yourself from those pleasures. Parties every day and money for that. Much more money than average salary in Korea. 99.9 % of korean men are doing that and the same are doing their wifes. Wifes don’t work constantly, they do it as an “arbait”, it means part time job. Once or twice a week and their husband think that their wifes are out with friends. Ha-ha prostitution in Korea is like a coin with two sides. It’s man’s and woman’s blessing and punishment here. Of course it also impacts on korean children, especially young daughters.

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  27. I understand the view here is all about the impact of prostitution on the female married to a S. Korean businessman. What of the impact on the women who work in the various shades of prostitution? Having been a western soldier in the ROK, my observations with regard to prosititution is that it is an industry that is based on abuse. Pure and simple. Few women enjoy working in prostitution, they are traded – bought and sold, often physically abused, mentally manipulated, and end up as social outcasts as they hit their 30′s. It is an ugly but accepted practise. Regardless of the level of acceptance as a business or social lubricant, at the end of the day it supports a corrupt underclass, the abuse of thousands of young women, and in the end continues because most men feel it creates no harm (to them). So what of the prostitutes?

  28. To the white douchebag that creates this sad, pathetic post. Get a f*cking life. To say the agenda in this blog is transparent would be the understatement of a lifetime. You obviously want to put as many negative stereotypes against Korean men as possible, but in the guise of some pseudo-intelectual “sociology” context. Look at the photographs you have chosen for this piece for example. Korean men ooglleling sexy women on billboards. A Korean girl sticking her tongue at her sad sack boyfriend (which in it’s original context was most likely meant to be humorous, not used to portray a negative image of Korean men as you are).

    Yeah you have a Korean wife and now you are taking on a great cause in her name. A feminist movement in Korea. Oh the great white superman. But look who you’re readers are. Douchebag white dudes like yourself (and your Goddamn post is written in English). It’s not about a feminist movement and it never was. It was always, from the start, about creating negative stereotypes against the awful, sexist Korean man, oh the terrible husbands and fathers they make. Every Korean woman should be so lucky to have a white husband like yourself and your douchebag followers so she can finally be free to be herself.

    Well, I have some news for you, and this might be pretty shocking. There are 50 MILLION KOREANS! A significant percentage of them are children! Who do you think provided the sperm for those kids??? The truth is, Korean men are hard working, loving fathers, and caring husbands. And Korean women are also, hard working, loving mothers and caring wives. Thus the result are MILLIONS succesful families.

    I know you’re a great man. Unemployed, no education or skills so you moved out to Korea to teach English, and find yourself a hot little piece of Oriental ass. I mean you’re every Korean woman’s dream come f*cking true. Let’s face it, you never got the blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl of your dreams, so now you need to make your dick feel bigger by saving some poor Asian women from the clutches of her misogynist society. Again, you are a sad and pathetic loser and please move the f*ck back to wherever you came from.

  29. SA23
    You’ve missed the point on so many levels…
    1. This is about a foreign woman not man
    2. If aimed at anything this would be aimed at Korean business culture NOT Korean men in general
    3. Who said anything about English teachers? I for one am a banker here and I don’t see anyone else posting that they are a teacher
    4. Korean women make loving wives but are top of the list for being the most unhappiest wives on the planet.
    5. Yes millions of Koreans have been making millions of babies but have you taken a look at the birthrate thesedays? GUESS NOT

    Sounds to me like you have a severe case of inferiority complex. What happened ex girlfriend run off with a dashing young English teacher?

  30. Hi All,
    I am not sure how real it is. If it is so bad that we discussed, you do not see any happy familiy on the street in Korea at all. Just think positive, the world is not as bad as you think. Sometimes the statistic is only for selling purpose. Korea is just like any other people. Just we think in this forum beginning from one desired point.
    Bye,

  31. Try to get married to a Korean woman, while having a lower than average income yourself.

    This attitude in Korea may well be general than anywhere else in the world.
    It’s the Korean women who start out from a prostitution perspective for themselves. They know pretty well, they’re in it for the money, if nothing else.

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  34. To the American lady married to a Korean man, I have the same worries as you. Though I am not married yet to my Korean bf, I have worries with regards to the issues you’ve mentioned above. Talks of marriage had already been discussed. We actually have a 7-month old daughter now. He is a devoted Christian and I believe he is a good man and will be a good husband and father. We run an English school for Koreans here in the Philippines and from time to time, he has to go back to Korea to do some marketing for the school. When he’s there, he gets up early at around 4:00 AM to go to church with his mom and from then his day starts until 11 pm or 12 am. His work routine is like this almost everyday except on Sundays when he goes to Church and goes to sauna after. I don’t know but I think I am just paranoid or what but I sometimes find it hard to believe his work schedule given it runs 2-3 months. He always tells me to trust him and never to think anything bad. He said he is doing everything for our future. I know and I can feel his sincerity towards our relationship but I am worried as hell that he might meet some hot Korean women that might make him change his mind about us. I am 5 years older than him and a businesswoman here in the Philippines apart from our school business. I guess I am just insecure or do you seriously think that I should think twice about marrying my Korean bf.

  35. To nosyme: you will have such concerns no matter what man you marry. There are greedy sluts on every side waiting to pounce on your man no matter where he comes from. Please be real. Want to stop worrying? Be hotter than the “hot Korean women”.

    I have to say this article is very confusing for me. On the one hand it does paint a very dismal picture of Korean men. On the other hand, the Korean culture is one of respect and even though divorce rates are rising globally, Koreans still have more successful families than Americans have had for years. I’m inclined to believe that the average Korean man is doing SOMETHING right for his family.

    • Oh, and one more thing that might help a lot: stop thinking of him as a “Korean” husband. He’s your husband, that’s it. His ethnicity doesn’t change that. Look at his personality only. Is he a good man? Then that’s all you need to know. I wouldn’t like it very much if I married a man of a different race and he kept assuming certain things about me because I’m his “African” wife and I have a certain “background” and certain things take place in my “society”.

    • Sorry, but I don’t buy your statement that “Koreans still have more successful families than Americans have had for years”. How do you define a “successful family” exactly?

  36. Saphire said:

    “On the other hand, the Korean culture is one of respect and even though divorce rates are rising globally, Koreans still have more successful families than Americans have had for years. I’m inclined to believe that the average Korean man is doing SOMETHING right for his family.”

    When you look at the crude divorce rate Koreans are only slightly behind Americans (2.9, 3.6 per 1000 people respectively, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divorce_demography)

    However this does not take into consideration the characteristics of the population. Korea has 3% and rising more senior citizens (Those above 65 yo) than the US. It also doesn’t take into consideration the trends (Korea has had steady increase where America has declined).

    ‘Oh, and one more thing that might help a lot: stop thinking of him as a “Korean” husband. He’s your husband, that’s it. His ethnicity doesn’t change that.”

    You are an idealist. I’d love it if what you said were true. The world truelly would be a happier place. Realistically although race doesn’t matter, culture, including how a Korean man is raised and the influences of his peers DOES change things. Big time.

  37. Ultimately, the reason for this whole post boils down to religion and values. Korea is not a traditional Christian country. That is to say Christianity is relatively new in Korea; thus, its values are not quite widely accepted yet. These anti-prostitution laws were put in place not necessarily because the majority of Koreans believe that prostitution is wrong, but rather because of the pressure to appease the more Christian western world.
    Culturally, Korea has been a country that accepted prostitution. To change it overnight because of some legislation and values that they are not yet accustomed to is absurd.
    Eastern culture and Western culture are different. There’s no denying that. We should not be trying to instill our values into other cultures just because we believe them to be right. Who can say that monogamy is absolutely better than polygamy? If you can, what gives you that right? It’s not just sexual. All laws and codes of behavior are tied in with values. Values conflict. Values vary through upbringing, socioeconomic background, culture, environment etc. Human civilization has endured for thousands of years, yet we still have not found the ultimate, absolute set of moral values. Why do you think that is? It’s because they may not exist. Who are we to judge and try to change others? As equal individuals, we do not have that right. But, most of you posted your replies with already a set of values ingrained in your minds, that prostitution/polygamy is wrong. With that kind of narrowminded mindset, you will supply evidence and reasoning to justify your set of beliefs. That’s your right. But think. Really, are your values absolute? Do you have the right to judge? What gives you that right over does who behave contrary to what you believe?
    Prostitution exists. People cheat. People do things that go against everything we hold dear. It’s their choice. If the person you are with engages in such behavior, in the end, it’s your mistake. You are the person who chose to be with that person. You are the person who either accepts or rejects that person’s behavior. You can try to change that person, but don’t come here to whine. If you hate your Korean husband, leave and divorce him. If you want to look the other way, then do so. All your choices are in your hands. Do not set out to change this soceity, even if every fiber of your being hates it because you do not have the right. Grow up. You made your own bed, lie in it or burn it.
    In the end, this discussion will never have an end because there is not right answer. Prostitution is prostitution. Korean men are Korean men. Korea is Korea as much as America is America. We do not have a right to say what is wrong or right. It is your right as a human being to try to do so, but to force it is wrong, at least IMHO.
    If you have a problem with your husbands, fix it yourselves. Say what you want to him. But I ask, do not come here to enforce your values on others because all you will get are opposition and devil’s advocates.
    Albert Einstein once said that everything is relative. It truly is. If you want to believe that everything you say is right, I have no right to try to change you. Neither do you.

  38. hello i was just shearching in google and i accidently was dropped in here. but i’m little curious and confused with your post.. (before starting, sorry for my not good english.)
    i think, i cant accept something in your post. actually what you were saying in your post some are correct but some are just first hearing to me.
    i have not much experienced yet and i’m very young to know all of the social thing but still it is very not common thing in my, my family’s and my friends’ world. korean normal women never think prostitution is acceptable and something okay even considering social and money.
    i know my father never go to prostitutes and my uncle never do too. if he do, that is a very something shameful. he would never be able to tell us.
    i know there are many men who go to singing room where prostitues are in in korea but as you know and think, it is not a thing to boast. it is very very shameful. maybe the wives who ignore or tolate it of their husbands have some problems i think.
    i cant deny that there are much more women in korea who are dependent to men than in western, but they are not good case. and some of them maybe think men have to earn money whatever he do. they might be people like who i tell you right next.
    in my experience, there were some girls in my school who think they have to be Cinderella or Snow wite and think they will meet rich good looking prince so they care only their looking, but they were just morons. they were always looked down by normal students and teachers.
    i’m not denying all of your saying. surely it is problem in korea that there are people who think prostitution is okay if it is related to work or social thing and people who think there is nothing but singing and drinking in karaoke bar to be close each other like your saying. but it’s something pathetic i think.
    the women who accept their husband’s behavior of prostitution might have not courage and ability of getting job who are useless (sorry for hard word. but i really want to say. they are useless. i’m sure.)
    and also it’s true that there are some clever women who intentionally hit on stupid rich men and marry and never care their doing of whatever becus they will get much alimony if they divorce.
    but still it is not common and proper thing. dont worry. i can understand it will be really shocking for foreigners who hear and meet this situation first in koea. but i heard there is some case of like this even in US or UK or any country. all is similar.
    but korea have much more. if i draw a reason (but i’m not so sure), is it because of the culture of night? you know, there is not much cultures of night in western. sorry if it was stupid assuption. haha
    please dont be serious about that. what you said is not much related with proper people. and if you are living in kangnam, yeah i so understand. there are so many people who think like what you worried. that is the space. yeah. that is THE space of THAT people.
    i really hope you to meet good people in korea rather than people who say prostitution is okay and also have so good time in korea not worring.
    if i choose problematic area of korea, umm, kangnam of seoul, little area of bucheon and ansan, and some area of ilsan…. there will be much more area. and i’m in ilsan but my area is okay to live. oh, it was not proper thing to say
    but anyway i really do hope you to have good experience in korea and anywhere else. and you dont have to worry if you have good trust on your husband. he will never make you disappointed. korean guys have good and strong attatchment(?) to their wife if they are proper men. and i think you have married proper lovely man. right?
    sorry for my immature english, if i wrote with korean i would write maturely.
    good luck~ if you have any questions about korea you can ask me with my e-mail address.
    bye bye~ have a good time in korea with your husband who does carzily love you.

  39. Emailer- you are allowing your insecurities get the worst out of you. You and your husband seem to be communicating. That is key in a good marriage. Your marriage is like any marriage in the world be it in the States or in Korea because it involves two different individuals. You have stated your boundaries to your husband and he seems to love you by what you have stated. You should have no worries about him cheating on you.

    I’m going to say be liberal about him visiting the parlors but make sure he understands you won’t put up with cheating and prostitution. If he tells you he won’t sleep with a prostitute then I would believe him. Your instincts are right about him that is why you married him. He is a good man who loves you. In regards to the parlors if he has to go, then he has to go. The business men go to these things because sausage fests suck, and if you can hire some pretty girls who can pretend to like you and laugh at your stupid jokes, pour you drinks and flirt just a little -it’s all innocent fun. Their intent is not to be sexual with these women, but to be entertained. Being single, and when I was in a relationship, it is nice to be given compliments and attention from someone other than your significant other. Your self-esteem flew high, but I always knew I wanted to head back home to the one I love. I am not saying he can not have that same type of high with you- your love is a deeper one. It isn’t as exciting like when you both first met, right?

    Also, stating that no one should marry a Korean man is harsh and plain rude. He isn’t a name brand product you bought from the store shelves. You married this man for good and bad. I think you have just belittled your relationship with your husband. Don’t get into this type of mentality. I see these parlors equate to strip clubs in the States. It is where you can act stupid because you are paying women to entertain you, the women will be tolerant of your stupidity. Men frequent these as a group once in their life. I know several good men who do it once a week to let out some steam. But it’s all fun and they would never consider sleeping with these women. They talk mad shit, but when push come to shove they understand the consequences and weigh them. Not sleeping with the stripper usually wins out. Even if they are drunk.

    Anyway, all I got to say is that you need to believe in your man especially if you notice that he is a consistent type of guy. Everything you have found out about him matches and doesn’t look fishy, looks to me like he leads an honest life. Someone you can trust.

  40. I know this is true. I was in Kunsan and around the hotel I was staying I would see beautiful young Korean women going into these business bars. My friends and I would drink and then try to enter. We would be kicked out of every single one, some were very expensive Karaoke rooms. (we just wanted some place to party)

    Well, we hopped a ride in a taxi and we asked the driver what these places were. He said, “big spender, pushy pushy.” We got the hint and this article seals the deal.

    I was actually wondering about Korean women, I heard they lie and say they wait till after marriage for sex or say they are virgins to foreign guys (like myself). When they just may have multiple sex partners. I heard in college they get drunk and they pick a mate… to “mate” with, like a drinking game. Then they say, “they were drunk and this never happened”.

    I felt I met a great girl, now I am questioning this… I thought Korean women were more classy than the American variety. Not necessarily trying to find a virgin, just a non-lying whore.

  41. Billy,

    I think what you really need to question is your projection of these Korean women. You thought they were more classy than the American variety- already you were fooled by your own perceptions. You have fooled yourself into thinking Korean women are better when in fact they are just like ALL other women on this earth: passionate and curious beings. So, it’s not really her problem if she is a virgin or the other extreme-a lying whore. It’s your issue if you want to accept either extremes or not. If this woman makes you happy, who cares? Worried? Take an STD and HIV exam.

    Also, FYI- even if you are a virgin[female] who hasn’t had oral, anal, or tapping; you can still get STDs from dirty toilet seats. BOO-YA!

  42. Cool, Yeah… we are going together now and I feel like an idiot for thinking such things. I will just let it ride and see where the current takes me.

    I also make a butt gasket when I sit on a toilet. =)

  43. As a korean women who is working in one of biggest korean conglomerates, I totally understand what the author have posted. And it is so true that infidelity of men in this country is no big deal.(and infidelity of women dose matter as you’ve seen in Ok so-ri’s case) Even my mom told me that I had to ‘understand’ them, even if they call 도우미s in karaoke bars, or even go to 안마( a place where one can basically have sex), because they are men and it just part of their work life. It’s just ludicrous. Yes, I fully acknowledge some situations leave no options and I do pity some of my colleagues who don’t want to go these places but can’t say ‘No’ to their boss since korean work place culture is so authoritative.

    Not all time, but, when you go to afterwork drinking and eating with you male colleagues and bosses, you will probably get a signal from them if you are an female. It says ”’It’s time for you to go home because we men are going to have some ‘fun time’ in karaokes or room salons. What make this more worse is that they are using ‘corporate’ cards when they are checking the bills. Companies tolerate this, partly because they believe this kind of ‘men stuff’ can strengthen fellowship and raise morale of male employees.

    And I feel sorry for the koreangirl20 for her ignorance. You will realize how this post candidly depicted cruel fact that korean women have to put up with once they get a job or married. Yes, your father and your uncle may not have slept with prostitute but i dare to say it’s highly likely(I’m almost one hundred percent sure) that your father or your uncle has had an experience( or experiences?) of going to a room salon , or at least, of cavorting with 도우미s in your age in a karaoke.

    I lately found a very interesting statistics showing that nearly 50% of men who were convicted of buying sex(prostitution is illegal in Korean, believe or not) were married. This comes as no surprise to me.

  44. I am a undergradate student studying at Yonsei University this semester. I am currently doing a research project about prostitution in Korea and I find the postings in this blog very informative. I am examining how the prostitution environment in Korea operates and I am interested in doing interviews with someone who knows something about it.
    If there is anybody who would like to contribute I would be very pleased if you would send me an email on janus_jul@hotmail.com
    All information will of course be kept strictly confidential.

  45. This forum is an eye opening to me both negative and positive. I recently met a married Korean man (I’m not living in Korea–he was a foreigner to me, so to speak) who said that he had a family company back in Korea. He’s in his middle-age. He planned to stay in my country for a year. He was in research to see some markets to invest here. As I am keen on traveling and have met different types of people around the world, I had no trouble getting along with this man. I valued our meetings as a hospitality effort to show about the city and the local cultures to him. What questioned me was he always signed that he came from upper class family in Korea. He even showed me off some big cash in his wallet and it happened more than twice. I don’t know if this kind of habit (showing money to the opposite gender) is normal for Korean businesman esp. one living in abroad. We actually had nice conversation everytime we met. I got irritated when he showed me off his cash in his wallet. What was he trying to say? In one occasion he also spoke about he wasn’t a perfect man that he still liked to smoke, to drink and women. I absolutely understand that men will be men (you know what I mean). He was so kind and nice to me. He seemed to know how to treat a woman. Then again I’m the type of person who knows the limitation by saying “No”. I know what hospitality means not to be put as “service plus”. I just like to learn other cultures and people.

    So after my meetings, I began to search on everything more about Korea to my curiosity. Its cultures, customs, language, people, etc. I was told that Korean men beat their wives. But since I met this man, I did’t believe anymore as he was so nice. I thought to myself I couldn’t make generalization of men according to where they came from. I googled about women emancipation and how they were treated in Korea these days. So here I am, landed on this forum.

    The negative points I concluded are seeking women after work could be true as this man told me of working habits in Korea apart from how hard live was in Korea. Second, the wife might not agree with what working husband did in term of buying prostitutes (because he said he “bought” women he met at bars or drinking spots. His wife knew and in order to avoid argument later, he never talked to the wife about it). Third, never trust easily any men who says he comes from upper-class society and blatanly showes off cash in his wallet, maybe he wants to buy you?

    I think a female foreigner seeks to marry a Korean man needs to think more than twice though it can’t be generalized but commonly in the Korean men’s world such things are widely accepted. Ironic, isn’t it? And the positive things are this also to urge women to be vocal about themselves. Not to treat women as second citizen in modern world. Men and women have different roles to play. Women need to be treated with respect and equally. If women are allowed to show their strengths, it’s not impossible that women are obviously multi-tasking individuals, even stronger than men such as how to deal with problems, and are in fact more sturdy inside.

    Thinking the positive sides on everything is wise but taking precaution is important too.

  46. this is a very interesting article. as an american, i dont understand how it is possible to separate love from sex, or vice versa. i think they are absolutely related to one another. i too would be quite concerned if i were to marry a man that have grown up in that kind of culture. If the man i loved did take part of those cultural behaviors, i would not be able to tolerate it at all.

  47. i’m not sure if anyone is still reading this listing, but i think that this is an interesting topic and have a few insights. for full disclosure, i am a korean-american. i am currently enrolled in a graduate history program and am studying korean/korean american history. i have never lived nor worked in korea. but from stories i’ve heard, i do think that prostitution is a problem in the country. however, i would like to interject some point (esp. historical ones). the first is to introduce the concept of camptown within the large cities of korea. many of these areas were introduced during the korea war. many bars and brothels were set around american military camps to service american troops. many of the redlight districts which are existing today are remnants of these camptowns or are active ones that service american service men today. in fact, the phenmenon of korean military prosititutes can be taken back even further to the japanese colonization of korea, where many korean women were forced to service japanese troops. a very intresting book was written about the subject of camptowns called beyond a shadow of camptown. now, i’m not mentioning this to excuse the behavior of current korean businessmen, but to get at the larger issue of what has been attrituted as the “cultural acceptance” by Koreans. i think the the camptown illustrates that concept of prostituion that is being discussed here is not a phenmenon of korea (not to say that other forms of prostitutions did not occur in korean history, but rather the prostitution that largely occurs in the setting described above) but rather was a concept introduced from abroad. when you look at it historically, the role of occupying armies both eastern and western (but due to the history of colonialism, predominantly western) have encouraged the growth of prositituion. the presence of military brides and camptowns (not only korean but this was seen in europe after the world wars) is evidence of this fact.

    now i don’t want to sound blunt, but this shows that some of the opinions being expressed here are unfair and i believe are viewing western society with rose colored glasses. while it may not be systematized and given a title like “salary-man” system, western society is not exactly a gender friendly one. women are still objectified through popular culture. not only that, pornography is over a billion dollar industry (this does not even begin to encompass free access to pornography via the internet). while you may say this is not as bad a prostitution and i would agree with you. but what about the number of men in the us who don’t pay for sex, but go out and get it anyway. as a recent graduate of college, i can not begin to tell you how many stories and actual personal experiences where i’ve seen people involved in relationships or married go out to bars and “get pussy”. is the more acceptable that these men did not pay for it? it’s a not my place to make judgments for you, but it seems to be a problem to me. if you want more concrete statistical evidence, the us divorce rate seems to be a solid indicator. over 50% (the exact number varies by survey) of marriage end in divorce. infidelity is admitted to in around half of these cases for divorce (admitted, thus the number could be much higher). considering the number of marriages which occur per year, the amount of infidelity (whether do not prostitution or the more “acceptable” means of procuring women) seems to be just as big of a problem in the us as it is in korea. the only difference i can discern is that in korea it is a part of the business culture, rather than popular/weekend barhopping culture.

    on a related note, i think it is interesting to note here that many american guys my age to want to go to korea (or china) b/c “asian chicks” love “american/white guys”. i would ask anyone defending the merits of us attitudes towards the sanctity of sex to explain this phenomenon to me. this is just example of asian women being oppressed, but by non-korean men and not koreans. is this not an equally large problem?

    i did not write this post in order to excuse the behavior of businessmen in korea (i would like to use this term b/c it seems unlikely to me that all non-korean business men in korea abstain from this practice). i just feel that it is problematic to categorically condemn korean society/culture for this phenomenon. this is especially troubling when many people are treating america as blameless when it comes to its treatment of women. it can be argued that the current state of affairs in korea is a result of contact with the west, through camptowns, american popular culture, what i would call a neo-camptown phenmenon of young western men going to “score” in asian countries. does this excuse koreans of all the blame? of course not. but it’s important for all women, both korean and western, to see this as a transnational phenomenon rather than calling for korea to become more like america.

  48. I fully agree with Patrick that this isn’t a problem only in Korea.

    I think the best way to understand the current sex/love attitudes in Korea would be from a historical study of the subject. While there are common characteristics to “being American” each individual is still different. This has to also be true in Korea. History, common schooling, and media are developing a common characteristic in Korea, but naturally, as in all places, people are still individuals no matter how uniform they want to appear. Ultimately, a marriage is between two individuals. I, for example, don’t go through Chuseok or Lunar New Year ceremonies, like other foreigners who marry into Korean life.

    I’m an American married to a Korean woman and I’d like to better understand what is going on in my own relationship in regards to this discuss. At this point in time, I would highly recommend foreigners avoid marrying into Korean society. Marriage is stressful enough without numerous other cultural differences compounding the problem. But I stress again, the individual nature of the beast. I know a number of men married to Korean women, like myself, and our narratives are nothing alike. It’s like a mixing board where every dial is tuned to a different setting. While the dials may be similar the setting is always different.

  49. Hmm my experience in Korea as a consultant was going out late and drinking w/ my guy coworkers. One guy would lie to his wife so we could stay out LOL. I though it was funny at the time but after getting married myself, it was less funny. But none of the Korean guys ever tried anything.

    LOL they were just really friendly and hospitable…maybe I got to miss all the dirty stuff because I am a woman…but my US guy coworkers had no such qualms, and I’ve been to a couple of strip clubs with coworkers here.

    LOL Korean guys may want to chime in here. LOL maybe they’re just shy or much less perverted than “western” guys. On the same trip, I almost had sex in a hot tub on the hotel roof with a married white guy. LOL Don’t worry I thought better of it…but really I would NEVER let my husband travel for business. Had he been cuter…I could have been an adulteress.

    I also made a funny joke to my korean guys (Okay it was translated and it was only funny to me). I was like “Let’s go eat some dog!” But dog is for “men’s health” ie it’s an aphrodisiac. Apparently so is snake soju, insam and like 500 million other seemingly-innocent foodstuffs.

    I asked them why they needed so much “medicine.” I never got a straight answer. LOL I dunno, I have a hard time believing guys actually have s e x with the girls at room salons. For one, they’re too drunk to get it up…and unless there’s some snake soju or something around…do they really have the energy? oO

    My favorite coworker would not take me to a room salon, but he told me what they did. He said the girls are naked and they do like “shot” where you/or they, I can’t remember pour down whiskey, and the guy can drink it from their pubes. Based on some of the stuff I’ve seen in the US…it sounds pretty tame to me. At least the whiskey might kill some of the germs…
    LOL Korean men, I am glad you’re not pigs…but feel free to defend yourselves.

  50. “From what I have observed throughout my time in Korea (and please correct me if I’m wrong), it seems that frequenting prostitutes is an accepted part of life for Korean married men.”

    who cares what is accepted by other men/women? if you don’t want your husband to visit prostitutes, then tell him. and if he cheats in this way, you must be prepared to divorce him if you really feel that this behavior violates your marriage. you don’t need to make the situation more complex about thinking about what may or may not be accepted by other Korean married men. you need to decide what is acceptable to you and your husband only. end of discussion.

  51. Hi, I am 22 and Male
    Recently i was in South Korea on a business trip. It is culturally mandatory to entertain your clients. The entertainment ending with all the boys in a massage center ( 1 hour sex). In that process i made a connection with one of the girl’s there, the first time i gave her my cell phone but no call, the second time i got her number and we started texting. The intimacy felt very real and got much better by each visit. By the third time i visited her we were exchanging love texts. On my last visit i told her i’m leaving tomorrow and i’d like to go “out” (literally on a date) with her tomorrow morning. Time fixed 9am, solid hug and a kiss and off i go. Next morning i am waiting for her from 9am till 11am, nothing from her. So i texted to her “coming?” she says “no i can’t”. i call my friend so we can go about our business. 15 mins later she texts “when are you coming back?” i said “in may” she says “give me one hour”. After 45 mins she pops up at outside my hotel room door. Unfortunately my Korean friend was there, so i told her, she showed some reluctance but comes into the room and my friend starts chatting her up and ramping up my PR. I ask my friend give me 10 mins. He leaves i grabbed her and she seemed held back. A little bit of smooching, then she takes my picture and i take hers with me, trade emails, messenger id’s and we leave for a restaurant happily in my friends car. We ate, then my friend drops her outside her apartment building, she gives me a solid hug and a kiss and off i and my friend go. Later that evening i started texting her no answer, around 10pm she texts back ” didn’t work today, slept all day sorry” i said okay. I leave for the airport and off i go from Korea. I texted her from my connection. I was a bit upset and heart broken so i might have used the L word. So the next day i arrive in my country and called her in the morning. No answer, next day i tried her again and she said ” i was sleeping the other day, i miss you very much, lets text each other.

    So the next day i text her, no answer, it got me worried, so i called, no answer. Its been almost 10 days of me texting her and calling her but no answer. I have texted her asking if it was my misunderstanding or what? was it business?

    I’m heart broken really partially because my friends family treated me as their own and as family (i lost my parents when i was 11 and since then i’ve been hanging on with society with heart of stone). This girl had me going crazy about her.

    I forgot to mention, she told me she is 25 but all my korean friends say she is around 30 or above.

    I am really confused and heart broken. I’m looking for answers but can’t get any from her. Not a single word.

    Was it all a big hustle? did i understand the whole thing wrong? Did we ever had a connection or was it all fake? What is the reason behind her simply cutting off all comms without any reason?

  52. Sherry,

    You’ve been had. I have a couple of friends who are managers, minders, pimps, or whatever you want to call them for these types of girls. They are trained to use text and email as a business tool to keep customers on an emotional leash. Messages become less and less frequent or may disappear altogether if there is no income to be made from it, especially if the client is living in another area. Especially after hearing the verbiage of your communications, I am sure you’ve fallen victim to the typical hustle.

    Make no mistake; they are cold-hearted and ruthless.

    • Mark,
      From the day i met her, i never forgot she was a prostitute. The day she came to my motel she had short circuited my conscience. The night before i met her and i asked her for the second time to come meet me at my motel and we’ll go out on a date and as i’ve described it above she came. I cannot understand why she did that. Was it also part of the scam? one thing i know is to get the client to come to you, but do they go to their clients in off-hours and certainly on a “date”. Was there some hidden agenda? did i misunderstand the visit or did she?

      She did seem upset when we left the hotel and onwards i could see quite clearly a fear of some sort. Did she fear my Korean friend (who happens to be 51) who might have popped lid on the con?

      My friend knew she was a prostitute and he did not exhibit any signs that could make me doubt that it was a con. I am very sure he has the best intention at heart for me and has actually saved me from other scams instantly but at this point he was least worried.

  53. The money. In Korea, it’s always about the money. Politicians don’t want to really “crackdown” on prostitution as it will add a million women (plus pimps) to Korea’s social welfare burden. In the infamous words of one of Roh Mu-hyun’s ministers, “These women are trash. Where will they go?” Not that I agree with that statement, but that’s the reality of Korean social structures. Follow the link to the Philippines

    Employers would rather top up salaries with cash for room salons than pay tax on salary increases. A a 5 billion dollar a year industry, imagine the taxes and pension contributions Korean employers have avoided.

    Prostitution is part of the fabric of Korean society. It cannot be disentangled.

  54. Pingback: Prostitution in South Korea and Japan | |

  55. I lived and worked in Korea for five months and it is because of what I read in these comments above that I couldn’t get over the culture shock.

    I met a Korean guy (online teacher board) who just started his own language school. I was invited for an interview and he would meet me at the airport and show me the school and have lunch at his house. On the way to his house he told me about his beautiful daughter and showed me a picture. I was puzzled about this as I was not sure how his daughter relates to me working for him. I just smiled and out of politeness affirmed her beauty by just nodding… I couldn’t utter a word as it suddenly dawned on me that he is trying to persuade me to work for him and in return he would offer his daughter as he is only able to pay a small salary the first six months as it is a new school and I would be the first teacher. He must have noticed that I wasn’t really impressed and he went on to offer me his friend’s daughter if I like her more. I felt so insulted that a stranger could make this kind of offer just after meeting each other a few minutes ago at the airport. He was under the impression that I wasn’t interested, never mind considering that I might feel disgusted with this kind of immoral, unethical trade deal and not to mention the disrespect he shows to me. Besides, I couldn’t bring myself to the point where I eat his wife’s cooked meal in her own house and later entertain her husband’s latest offer. I know that she will not agree with this but I also know that she doesn’t have a say in the matter. Oh, and did you know that the wife doesn’t eat with the husband at the same time. Only once he finished his meal can she sit down and eat. They don’t eat together. I know of savage beasts in the animal kingdom who’s soical behaviour is the same – the males feed first and then the females. And don’t forget, it was the females who did the hunting just like Korean women doing the cooking. That is why Korean men can be compared to savage beasts.

    Not only do the men spend more time with prostitutes (in the name of business) than with their wives, it is also ok to make your daughter part of the business deal – after all, there shouldn’t be any difficulty for a father doing this since arranged marriages are still common in Korea. Although Korea is considered conservative by western standards, immorality is often part of the financial gain equation.

    I have a hard time understanding this because touching and showing affection in public is taboo.

    But this is what I learnt in my meager five months of stay in Korea…anything goes as long as it is behind closed doors or out of the public eye. That is why you don’t see Korean models used publicly in lingerie advertising (only western women – which tells me a lot of Korean perception of western women), but it is ok to use the girls for business deals.

    I would much rather have my daughter be displayed publicly in lingerie than offer her to a stranger.

    In Korea, a woman counts for nothing, just like in China. One day I sat in a park and a Korean man arrives with three small children. After a while he started talking to me. He very proudly pointed to the two boys saying they are his sons. Once again, I just smiled and nodded. I wondered who the little girl was. After a minute’s silence I asked him. Very causally he tells me is it is his daughter. I was startled by this. Why didn’t he just say they are his children, but instead just points to the two boys as if the girl isn’t even present? In Korean society the family name is very important and only the boys carry the name to the next generation, but this is the case all over the world and in many cultures it doesn’t make the girl a second class member of the family or society.

    I am now over four years in Asia and have seen many things that would seriously upset (gross understatement) western women, not to mention feminists’ reaction to this. Western women have nothing to complain about their men if compared with Asia and the Middle East, rather, they have a lot to be thankful for. Once they visit Asia long enough to see for themselves, they will be slow next time to criticize and judge the opposite sex of their society and be quick to appreciate. I know this, because many Asian women appreciate western men more than their own kind.

    Let me not get started on why Korean women have facial plastic surgery…

    Having said all these things about Koreans, I believe there is good in every culture and if only us westerners could know what Asians have to say about westerners we will realise we all have our shortcomings.

    • Glad that your “meager” stay of five months allowed for you to gain such a comprehensive understanding of an entire culture. You characterization of Korean men as “savage beasts” is not only a gross generalization but also incredibly insensitive to the long history of orientalist/racist discourse directed against Asians. I not only find your post incredibly offensive, but question your characterization of sensitivity of Western men. How do you explain the burgeoning sex tourism industry where Western men pay thousands of dollars to travel to Asia for sex, often times to have sex with underage children. Or how about the hundred of Western young men how go over to “teach English,” which has often become code for hooking up with Asian women “who all find American/white men irresistible.” But I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’m sorry if that was a blanket statement that doesn’t apply to you. Oh wait, nevermind. Judging by your post I don’t seem to have any problem with them.

    • never occured to you ,that he offered what he thought you would be interseted ?…like all the other western men before you? he tried to talk on ‘your language’. and that this actually judged you too?
      without your fault of course, since not you, personally, responsible that in korea people think western men going for their prostitutes only.

  56. I think my own culture and other Anglo cultures have FULLY imbibed christianity’s inane fear of women and body and physical existence. In Korea and Japan, playing between men and women is considered not dirty but like breathing air—a full normal activity like eating, drinking, walking, and earning a living.

    My sense is that 99% of the ordinary reality of Korean men is pretty crummy – working with other salarymen all day and having lunchtime conversations so boring it is hard NOT to fall asleep in your soup! I cannot condemn those men for escaping into erotic reality with prostitutes – probably the most beautiful prostitutes in the world – as soon as they get the chance. I have found the Korean approach to sex and prostitution refreshing: women seem to give sex to men almost out of a kind of pity for their sex-crazed situation in life.

    In terms of the effect of prostitution on others, the wives of married men I know who visit prostitutes in Korea seem happy because their husbands are not accosting them all the time for sex, and the husband is usually happy because he is not accosting himself all the time with unwanted and unsatisfied thoughts of sex. That is, he is, for a time, out of the thrall of sex and freed to do other things. And the guilt-free sex workers are happy because they can earn enough money to go shopping and travelling and buy whatever their hearts desire. More power to them!

  57. “sex in Korea is often not so closely associated with relationships and emotions as we believe it is for us.”
    It’s the same in China, but unlike Korean women most Chinese women really don’t seem to care.
    Perhaps they are more, how shall I put it, ” down to earth” ?
    An ex even told me that if I have sex with other women while she studies abroad she can understand it.
    I think we in the West are very much under the influence of Christianity and its demand for faithfulness.

  58. Things may have been very different then. The culture was very strict and a woman who was not a virgin was never going to marry a Korean man.

    As a result, many deflowered women wanted to marry an American soldier.

    They had to be registered prostitutes with picture ID and health check records to be seen in public with an American soldier, but many used false identities to save their reputations.

    Most of the girls I met were not interested in short term relationships. If you support them they will be your exclusive girlfriend and you will have a home away from home. Forty dollars a month was enough for her to take the taxi everywhere, take in a movie a few times a week, visit the beauty shop, pay for rent, food, clothes and save ten dollars.

    The girls had a union and they hired old women to act as spies to make sure the girls did not cheat. They sometimes did anyway.

    There were all kinds, but I was fortunate to meet women who wanted love. One of my steady girlfriends was the kindest person I ever knew. I helped her to find a husband and she moved to the US. She was also an aristocrat whose family had owned the same lands for over 1000 years.

    The girls in bars were considered a lower class, but some of these were romantic also. It was before payday and I was broke, but a girl who worked there offered to make love to me for free if I promised not to tell anyone. They liked to brag about how much money they got for their services.

    When I was a few months away from leaving the country I met an expensive call-girl that I could never afford. She would also only date field grade officers (majors, colonels and generals). I told her that I did not want to use anyone or be used.

    She said that she would be my friend and that I would give her no money and that she would give me no sex.

    Starting at midnight when curfew started, I slept in her house every night. She owned her own home and lived alone except for servants. It was a Western style wood frame house in the middle of a walled garden in the middle of Uijongbu. We slept almost naked together and held each other tenderly all night every night and never had sex and never had any kind of erotic touching, though I sometimes held her breast in my hand in an affectionate way.

    It was a very easy and pleasant relationship, as if we had known each other all our lives, or as if we were children together.

    In the morning we would have breakfast together and do some shopping until she had to start getting ready for work. We never discussed her clients. One time she bought me a sweater that cost more than twice my monthly salary.

  59. Treat others as you would like to be treated. So if it make’s a better man to demean women and cheat on their wives then it stands to reason that a woman so demean and cheat on their husbands.

  60. A question for you, mr. James. I’m a new reader to this blog, and I’m vaguely aware that you don’t give a direct opinion about things. Which confuses me, since I’m young and partly maybe because in the internet I am used to bloggers having their opinions really pronounced. But can you give me your position in this matter? This post is really foreign (and depressing) to me (I’m from s.e asia). Just for a peace of mind, please?

  61. This page is filled with gross exaggerations that reflect the supremacist, self-righteous White Knight attitudes of western males. These posters are the same people who gleefully watch movies like Last Samurai, Avatar, Pocahontas, or any other story where the white hero must save an oppressed woman from her “backwards savage” culture. Bottom line is western males are hyper insecure and consider white women as their property, so use any number of psychological or physical manipulation to keep them from marrying non-white. In reality, they are social predators often losers in their home country, preying on easy targets on Asia with self loathing, white worship, or easy women who care about perceived status/prestige/branding.

  62. 위에 옵저버 저 병신 한마리가 설쳐대네ㅉㅉ
    부끄러운 줄도 모르고.
    조선 엽전이 그렇지머ㅎㅎ 반성은 할줄 모르고 물타해대고 지랄이야
    가장 찌질하고 인시큐어한 놈들은 아시안이지. 그중에서도 조선놈.

    James, i couldn’t agree you more.
    I’m a Korean myself
    Sorry for my course language, hope you can’t understand my filthy language.

    • But, I understand. Why do you so much disrespectful of Korean people as if you are not Korean? I hope you delete the Korean content. I am Korean, too. You language makes this discussion so cheap.

  63. I just read the article about men in korea, i just saw a drama from that country and i think it´s helpful to see and understand their culture, being myself a latin woman from america an independent, successful professional with a man by my side, not me behind him, so correct me if i am wrong but women are not respected in korea in many ways, maybe there are still fixed marriages, like buying cattle, i agree with the woman who married a korean man that it´s not the place to raise children, the prostitution thing all over the place is not healthy for any human being, i saw racism and exclusion in the drama so i guess in real life maybe the same, in my very personal opinion i would not even consider have a friendship with a korean person as it would be disrespectful in some point, there is certainly a huge misconception about what a healthy relationship is there, or what a successful man or woman life should be, how on earth can you get to a councelor and tell him, we´re here because everytime my husband gets a raise looks for prostitutes? just think about it, it´s really insane, so then the councelor tells the woman, that´s fine, that´s my boy¡, lol, in my country that would be the obvious end of the marriage, even less, so one question for the korean woman, why do you let this happen? were you raised to be disrespected? or is it easier to have a man who takes care of the money and let him do what they want, there are some few old woman in my country that do that, but guess what, not only the man do not respect them, but the rest of the people neither.

  64. i think all posts are wrong and right no country is different it depends on the individual white men as you call them do go to other countrys for sex because they let it happen where in thier own country they would be crucified an korean men are fascinated by white woman as far as prostitutes it goes on avery where find any military base without prostitutes and i’ll show you a perfect person its not realite and many us woman use men just for sex ther boy toys its normal an bussness around the world have hiden apartments for sex parties men and woman do it the us just doesnt flant it yes some countrys treat woman as none humans and others just treat them badly an collage guys and girls are the same get it before you have to grow up and deal with the world its always been always be this way ask your grandparents they just used different words for it korea is no differant many post were like reading 18th century crap its not that way today korean girls have sex with boyfriends even in high school yes the country likes to drink so does avery were else there just more Social it’s just more open about it as far as marrage and trust keep each other happy an you dont have to worry and yes snooping is aloud its your acc too

  65. To the original poster: I know how you feel.

    Here is my simple suggestion. For your own peace of mind, discuss your fears with your husband and tell him what your boundary is by expressing what you plan to do if he betrays your trust. (I can’t stress this second part enough!) Then….trust your husband, unless (not until) you have reliable evidence that he has been untrustworthy. I’ve learned that the truth always comes out eventually, good or bad. Once you’ve done this, don’t worry about it (again, unless you see reliable evidence). At this point you have a plan in place, which he is fully informed of.

    As a “white woman” once married to an Asian man, believe me, I know what you are feeling. I had to apply the same principle as I just suggested to you. It helped so much. This has not deterred me from considering remarrying another Asian. I believe there are many, many honorable, trustworthy Asian men out there. Good luck.

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  68. To the original poster:

    Young or middle age… regardless age…many married women in Korea are thinking the same thing. Have you heard of Daum website miznet? miztalk something like that… Many many affair stories, noraebang doumi stories are there from Korean women who are in pain because of suspicion, doubt or despair and seek advice from other women or just to let it out. You are not alone. But, many women in Korea in your position believe that “My husband won’t have sex or an affair even though 90 or 99% of men do as people say.” They live happily until they find out the truth(affair) or maybe they are the lucky ones whose husband didn’t have an affair. By the way, many men think sex with prostitutes are not ‘affair’.

  69. my boyfriend is korean (23) and we have been going out for a year. He comes from a small town and is not very good looking. we are in a long distance relationship and he frequently goes out with his friends, drinking and going to “spas”. Is it likely that he has been to a prostitute before or after we met? ( he was in the military previously). We are very close but I don’t know how the culture works. he said he hasn’t done anything with anyone before and he does seem a little inexperinced..

  70. Pingback: Sex, Marriage, and Prostitution in South Korea | The Grand Narrative « 23 Kilograms or Less

  71. Growing up in Seoul as a child was a nightmare for me. My father was never home, because he had to go out drinking with his co-workers. As frequent was his drinking binge, I also witnessed my classmate’s fathers destructive after morning broken things at some of my friends house when I went to visit after school. Many parents were not home. 1st, 2nd 3rd grade as I remember, I have never seen any of my friends fathers. It was rare to see their mothers, only housekeepers. Some of them went to empty houses. I even witnessed my father’s mistresses who my mother faced in our own home. It was my wish that they were divorced as I witnessed too many fights. Some were physical. Due to this reason, I feared marriage. I never accepted any of marriage proposals from Korean men and American men. I am still single never married. And, I still have bad feelings toward my father. In his drunken rage, he often stated he slept with 3 women (Prostitutes) at once. That sickens me. He will never get my total respect due to this reasons, however I try to accept him as my father. You are right. Seoul or any Korean men who follow these traditions are going to make horrible husband and father figure. But, traditions die hard…..like eating dogs. I am Korean…..however, I am scared to visit, for feeling disappointed at my own race for these main 2 reasons. The way women are treated and the fact the dog eating is still accepted.

  72. Well-observed, blogger. Great blog and interesting threads of comments and discussions (although I did not read them all). I am Korean, and I just want to say the prostitution industry that you witness in Korea is not a result of some separation of love and relationship or a social or a cultural thing. It is just simply a break down, a total failure of morality, integrity, and any kind of conscientiousness because we have put money and pleasure as our top priority. I weep for my country.

  73. Pingback: Religion and prostitution in South Korea

  74. I think we should all just have sex with who we want to have sex with and stay out of other peoples sex lives. If you’re in a relationship that is causing you anxiety or unhappiness then find someone else.

  75. I hope people do realize that this isn’t strictly a korean thing. The article make it seem like it’s entirely a cultural thing in Korea. I have lived in many countries, and it’s the same everywhere, don’t dirty up another culture just because you can’t rationalize it. In Geneva, Switzerland, rich men who want to be perceived successful do the same thing, prostitution is actually a legal tolerance right in the seat of united nations, did you know this? Businessmen in New York constantly leave their spouses alone at home to accompany their bosses or business partners to cocktail parties, tomcatting and prostitutes, were you aware of this? Same story for Chinese businessmen, be it Beijing, or expats in Shanghai.
    Get over yourself, if you and your husband truly love and trust each other this shouldn’t even be an issue. Otherwise, either he’s got the wrong job or you’re married to the wrong man.

  76. reading this made me worry a lot. I am currently starting a relationship with a Korean male. I am not Korean, but a Chinese descendant from South East Asia, and we are not young adults in mid 20s or early 30s. We are based overseas where he is working for a Korean conglomerate group (he had been working after university graduation and his military service). Yes, he often gets invitation for drinking few times per week even here, mostly from Koreans who work for the same conglomerate, or ex-army buddies. He works almost 7 days a week. We meet only on saturdays or weekdays after his drinking session. He never said anything about visiting pros, only admitted back in home country they often worked late, had dinner and been drinking. he said he is single (he never said if he already divorced. could be, since in korea divorce rate is high). If this ends with a marriage, I wish I never have to live in Korea while tolerating such culture except holiday once a year (we do not have kids yet and not yet living together). He pays me a lot of attentions, and texts me everyday from AM to PM though few times a day. I want to trust him, but after reading this article and comments here, I feel a little reluctance.

  77. Pingback: Year Two Under | misshaped notes written on crooked lines

  78. Jae: In my opinion, the problem in Korean society is not about prostitution itself. The problem is, that you are forced to be like the others. And the lack of trust, and korean males “white lies” seen as something tolerable. For me, as open-minded but traditionally raised european, I can imagine if my future husband will be Korean, I would like to tolerate his prostitute visits rather then cheating with his secretary. As long as there is a trust and his respect for me, letting him do what he like or need. And use condom with a Chosen love worker. It is the oldes job in the world, and if I am pregnant, or think my man need sometnhing speciall in bad what I don t like to do, why not let him visit and pay for sex? But with my permission as a wife. And first, he must be able to fulfill MY need of sex, and be a good father. I think Korean male s wife are more unlucky becouse of almost sexless marriage and selfish, “I dont wanna spend much time home” husbands. So…to a white ladies here…I understand that you don t like the idea of your man maybe visiting Them. But if they care about you in every other possible ways and your sex life is good…why just not let it be? I mean why not talk about this problem and show that you understand the existence of this possibility that he could be forced by his collegue, or want himself to pay for girls and that you better would like to know and discuss this openly, then just be afraid to live in a lies? I also heard from korean 40 years second old wife of my frinds father, that she gained a luck in marriage by making statements like this ” O honey of course you can be late again, but I am really starting to think I will have to find some younger lover, if you are so buissy now. Do you like me to cook some galbi tomorrow?” :)))

  79. Pingback: The Real Truth about Relationships With Foreigners (in Korea) | The Author Dies At The End Of This Blog

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