Radio Interview on Australian Immigration Tonight, 7pm

White Australia Policy(Source)

Tonight I’ll be on Busan e-FM’s Let’s Talk Busan again, this time talking about Australian immigration, working holidays, and multiculturalism, prompted by the recent, possibly racially-motivated murder of a Korean woman in Brisbane. You can listen live on the radio at 90.5, online here (please note that you’ll have to download Windows Media Player 10 first), or via an archived version here later in the week.

Unfortunately(?), there are precious few links to Korean feminism, sexuality, or pop-culture to explore, except perhaps in so far as Australia has become a destination for Korean sex-trafficking. As The Joongang Daily explains, “some data say that about one-sixth of all women providing sex for money in Australia are Korean,” a surge in 2012 “largely attributed to legal loopholes in the working holiday visa system and a lack of administrative monitoring” according to The Korea Times. From experience though, probably there’ll be little time or opportunity to cover that angle, especially as the emphasis will be on racially-motivated attacks.

One personal link however, is that by coincidence my last job was teaching English to and preparing students for working holidays in Brisbane, just like the victim was doing. Teaching them for 4 to 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, I got to know them very well, and read the recent news with wide-eyed alarm, before remembering that they’ve all long since returned.

Another link is that as a former immigrant there myself, Australian immigration policies and multiculturalism have long been big interests of mine, and I devoured Stephen Castles’ books on the subjects as an undergraduate. Likely, many readers themselves have heard of the White Australia Policy (1901-1973), which figures prominently in Australia’s history. So, in keeping with the themes of this bog, let me pass on an interesting Australian ABC podcast about how its contradictions coalesced in a national “rapture” over Chinese-Amercian Anna May Wong’s visit in the late-1930s. Fascinating in her own right, I’d appreciate any suggestions for how and where to watch her movies:

Annie May Wong Australia(Source)

Anna May Wong was Hollywood’s first Chinese-American star. Her career started in the silent movie era, peaked in the interwar talkies and faded in the early years of television. Racist censorship laws meant she could never be cast as the romantic lead, instead she shone in sinister vamp and villain roles alongside the likes of Marlene Dietrich and Douglas Fairbanks. It’s a little known fact that this icon of Hollywood’s golden age spent three months in Australia on the eve of the Second World War.

Anna May Wong was at a crossroads in her career when she came to Australia to appear on stage as the star attraction in a vaudeville show on the Tivoli circuit, Highlights from Hollywood. She was sick of the typecasting and wanted a chance to reflect on her career at a distance from Hollywood. As it turned out, Australia was her last taste of the high life.

Since Federation, Australian national identity had been formed around the exclusion of the Chinese, but for Anna May Wong the red carpet came out. This feature traces the vivid details of her time in Australia and explores the contradictions of White Australia’s rapture over Anna May Wong.

Naturally, as Koreans’ experiences of racism in Australia will be very different to my own, and as I haven’t actually lived there since 1990 (my father still does; my last visit was in 2008), then during the show itself I’ll be deferring to other guests for most of time, particularly one who has just returned from a working holiday in Australia. Here’s looking forward to learning some new perspectives tonight!

URGENT: International Day of Protest against Violent Abuse and Murders of Sex Workers

Korea Prostitution Violence Protest(Source)

I’ve just been asked to pass on the following. The organizers apologize for the last minute notice:

International Day of Protest against violent Abuse and Murders of Sex Workers
세계 성노동자 폭행 및 살해에 대한 항의의 날

On July 19th, 2013, people are gathering in 35 cities across the globe to protest against violence against sex workers.

Following the murders of Dora Özer and Petite Jasmine on the 9th and 11 of July 2013, sex workers, their friends, families, and allies are coming together to demand an end to stigma, criminalisation, violence and murders. In the week since the two tragedies occurred, the feelings of anger, grief, sadness and injustice – for the loss of Dora and Jasmine, but also for the senseless and systemic murders and violence against sex workers worldwide – have brought together people in 35 cities from four continents who agreed to organise demos, vigils, and protests in front of Turkish and Swedish embassies or other symbolic places. JOIN US on Friday the 19th at 3 pm local time and stand in solidarity with sex workers and their loved ones around the world! Justice for Dora! Justice for Jasmine! Justice for all sex workers who are victims of violence!


Main Website:
http://jasmineanddora.wordpress.com/

Seoul: http://jasmineanddora.wordpress.com/seoul

Meet at Yeo-i-yean Office (Center for Women’s & Cultural Theory) from 1pm
여이연(여성문화이론 연구소) 오후 1시

Bring pink roses and red umbrellas!
분홍 장미와 빨간우산도 준비해주세요!

Contact:  밀사 @Milsa_

Visit the Facebook Event Page

English-to-Korean Translator Needed!

English-to-Korean Translator Wanted(Source)

I’ve been asked to pass on the following:

Research Project Korea is urgently looking for an English-to-Korean translator for a one-off translation job.

In May, leading German news magazine DER SPIEGEL published a deeply flawed and heavily biased cover story about the alleged failure of the German prostitution law. (see here) The article, published in German and English, is since being used by anti-prostitution activists and politicians as “evidence” that the German prostitution law lead to an increase in human trafficking in Germany, although official statistics by the federal criminal police (BKA) show the opposite is true.

A Korean sex worker has informed me that several Korean newspapers recently published articles about the SPIEGEL report, which jeopardises the ongoing review of Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Law by the Korean Supreme Court. We are therefore looking for a translator who will translate a detailed critique, written by Sonja Dolinsek and myself, in which we debunk the claims of the SPIEGEL report, to make it available to Korean audiences.

Does legal prostitution really increase human trafficking in Germany? | Feminist Ire
The text has 17,382 characters (with spaces), equalling 316 lines. You can view the article here.

Please contact Matthias Lehmann at yongsagisa[at]gmail[dot]com and include a sample of your work and a quote of how much you would like to be paid. We are planning a fundraiser to be able to pay for the translation.

Research Project Korea examines the impact of Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Law on sex workers’ human rights. If this is the first time you visit our blog, please read the About page or our guest post on The Grand Narrative.

Korean Sociological Image #72: Girl-group performances for the military

In the commercial above, a conscripted soldier is happy that his girlfriend is coming to visit him. What really gets him and his buddies running though, in a play on the faster downloading speeds of KT’s 4G LTE network, is the arrival of a girl-group on his army base.

With 300-350,000 new conscripts annually, one of the longest conscription periods in the world, and a grisly — but improving — record of bullying and abysmal living conditions, keeping the troops entertained can safely be assumed to have long been a big concern of the South Korean military. Accordingly, televised visits by girl-groups and entertainers have become a recognizable part of Korean popular culture (although they originally performed for US soldiers). Here’s an example with actress Shin Se-Kyung (신세경), performing on an army base as part of the very popular Infinity Challenge (무한도전) show last year (episode 269, aired October 1):

For those many more conscripts not lucky enough to have pretty female celebrities come to their own base though, the blog Sorry, I was drunk provides an interesting, *very frank* insider account of what they thought of girl-groups, as well as prostitution, cheating on partners, Caucasian girlfriends, and marriage. Here’s what the author wrote about the former:

…I knew Korean guys, especially sexually deprived conscripts, liked female celebrities (duh, right?), but I didn’t know how bad that affection was. I learned that Korean conscripts in general are obsessed with K-Pop girl groups, in particular Girls’ Generation. By obsessed, I mean really obsessed. A good example of this is rapper Psy’s description of his military service.

In this show, Psy says he was made to stand guard while watching the TV so he could alert senior conscripts that Girls’ Generation was on it. While it wasn’t that extreme in my unit, it was quite normal to see guys flock to the TV whenever GG or other good looking female celebrities were on air. Every Friday and Saturday, when the major networks have those “music” shows parading group after group, entire units would stay glued to the TV. Guys would watch the same music video or performance repeatedly so they could oggle at the girls. Their bare legs exposed, sexy dancing, and terrible music (not a secret among conscripts either), it was pretty obvious there was only one reason for these “musicians” to exist. These girls are glorified strippers, covered in the thin veil of “music” so it doesn’t seem as creepy and sad as going to a strip club. For conscripts, it’s usually the only form of sexual gratification they’re allowed while on base.

See also:

(For more posts in the Korean Sociological Image series, see here)

Workshop: “U.S. Military Camptown Prostitution in Korea: 1945-Present”

I’ve been asked to pass on the following:

As you may or may not know, the House of Sharing International Outreach Team has recently regrouped under the name, Women’s Global Solidarty Action Network. Our new expanded goals include focusing on issues of sexual slavery, trafficking women and the “comfort women” issue. This Saturday (June 9th), we will be hosting a workshop under the title “U.S. Military Camptown Prostitution in Korea: 1945-Present”. The workshop will be given by Professor Nah Young Lee.

To get to the center, take line 4 to the Sungshin Women’s University Entrance (성신여자대학교입구) stop. Go out exit 4 and a building with a traditional Korean roof (hanok) will be in front of you. Go into the building and up to the second floor. Please note the center is very close to exit 4, and not on the University’s campus.

For more information, email womens.global.solidarity@gmail.com, visit the Facebook event page, or contact Shannon at 010-4534-1553.

“Good women need our help, bad women need to be punished” — Learning about Sex Workers’ Rights in South Korea

Caption: South Korean women working in the sex industry stand on a stage during a rally in central Seoul on September 22, 2011 in protest at frequent crackdowns by authorities. About 1,500 women wearing masks to conceal their identities chanted slogans such as ‘Sex work is not a crime, but labour!’ and called for the abolition of a special law enacted in 2004 to curb prostitution. [Photo: Jung Yeon-Je — AFP/Getty Images]

[James] — Since September 2011, German-born researcher Matthias Lehmann has been conducting an independent research project to investigate the impact of South Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws on sex workers’ human rights and livelihood. In this guest post for The Grand Narrative, he outlines key events that led to the adoption of the problematic law and the motivation for his research:

Korea’s Anti-Sex Trade Laws

In September 2000, the notorious Gunsan Brothel Fire killed five women who had been held captive. Their tragic deaths exposed the conditions in Korea’s sex industry and triggered a campaign by women’s rights activists to reform the country’s prostitution laws. Their proposals became the blueprint for the Special Laws on Sex Trade (성매매특별법, Seongmaemae Tteukbyeolbeob), enacted in 2004, which include a Prevention Act and a Punishment Act. By passing these new laws, the government vowed to eliminate prostitution and protect victims of exploitation and violence in the sex industry.

The laws drew inspiration from the Swedish Violence Against Women Act (the Kvinnofrid law) from 1999, which criminalises the purchase of sexual services but aims to protect women working in the sex industry. The success of the Swedish model remains heavily contested. In 2010, the government issued an evaluation report that found that the law had achieved its objectives, to which government member Camilla Lindberg and opposition member Marianne Berg responded by publishing a bi-partisan article stating that the law had not only failed to protect women but instead hurt them, and thus had to be repealed.

In Korea, the Special Laws on Sex Trade remain a subject of debate. The Ministry of Gender Equality celebrated the legislation as a milestone achievement that would “vigorously strengthen the protection of the human rights of women in prostitution”. However, others criticise the legislation’s discriminatory attitude towards sex workers, who remain criminalised unless they claim to be victims. This “distinction between victims and those who [voluntarily] sell sex is actually one between protection and punishment” and categorises women into “good women who are worthy of help” and “bad ones who need to be punished”, thus continuing the stigmatisation of women who sell sex.

The Criminalisation of Prostitution Has Failed

Surveys have shown time and again, that despite being illegal, prostitution remains widespread in South Korea. Most recently, a state-funded survey found that 53 per cent of Korea’s sexually active senior citizens bought sex at brothels. A 2005 study found that “only 6 per cent of crimes occurred through the intermediary of a brothel, compared to 34 per cent via the internet, 26 per cent in massage parlours and barber shops.” The same study stated that the Anti-Sex Trade Laws had simply forced prostitutes further underground and overseas, as well as resulted in an increase in Korean sex tourists, a development very similar to that in Sweden.

According to the recent Report of the UNAIDS Advisory Group on HIV and Sex Work, “the approach of criminalising the client has been shown to backfire on sex workers. In Sweden, sex workers who were unable to work indoors were left on the street with the most dangerous clients and little choice but to accept them. … [Criminal laws] create an environment of fear and marginalisation for sex workers, who often have to work in remote and unsafe locations to avoid arrest of themselves or their clients. These laws can undermine sex workers’ ability to work together to identify potentially violent clients and their capacity to demand condom use of clients.”

Caption: Screenshot from a short film by Istvan Gabor Takacs, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and the Sex Workers’ Rights Advocacy Network

Research Project Korea

Conducting research into the human rights situation of Korean sex workers is of particular importance because, while Korean sex workers have some links to the global sex workers’ rights movement, too little is known about their everyday experiences.

Since 2004, Korean sex workers have repeatedly staged organised protests against the Anti-Sex Trade Laws and police harassment, most famously in May 2011, when pictures of sex workers dousing themselves in flammable liquid made global headlines.

Caption: South Korean prostitutes in underwear and covered in body and face paint, douse themselves in flammable liquid in an apparent attempt to burn themselves after a rally in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, May 17, 2011. Hundreds of prostitutes and pimps rallied Tuesday near a red-light district in Seoul to protest a police crackdown on brothels, with some unsuccessfully attempting to set themselves on fire. [AP Photo/Lee Jin-man]

But despite an even bigger protest last September, the human rights situation of sex workers remains grim. While I cannot yet estimate the frequency of such occurrences, it is evident that verbal and physical abuses against sex workers are common features of police raids in the Korean sex industry, as is corruption.

Human Rights become Collateral Damage

Through my previous research and work in the field of human trafficking prevention, I have gained a deeper insight into the negative side effects of anti-trafficking policies. Research by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women found that some of them are undesired or unexpected, while others result from problems related to the implementation of new legislation, such as the lack of knowledge, training or aptitude of law enforcement officials.

But there are also desired side effects, resulting from policies that are intentionally worded vaguely and do little more than to satisfy what international human rights standards require. As a result, human rights quickly become the collateral damage of urban redevelopment projects, such as in Seoul’s Yeongdeungpo district, or efforts to curb unofficial migration and undocumented labour.

The conflation of anti-trafficking measures with campaigns to eradicate the sex industry has resulted in uneven policies that do not help the majority of trafficking victims, but instead drive the sex industry further underground, cutting off sex workers from their usual support networks.

Improving sex work-related legislation is a hotly contested issue that deserves to be discussed on the basis of sound knowledge, which I like to contribute to through my research. However, my project is not just meant to add to academic or legal discourses.

Graphic Novel about Sex Work

Sex workers often rightly criticise researchers, politicians or the media for distorting the reality of the sex industry. We are therefore developing a graphic novel entirely based on experiences shared with us by sex workers in Korea. It will be made available in both English and Korean, with the publication planned for the second half of this year.

Many Koreans have a keen interest in supporting humanitarian causes abroad. Yet, I have found that they are often quite surprised to learn that the hardships that sex workers endure in Korea can be quite different from their expectations.

Through the graphic novel, we would like to help making the situation of Korean sex workers known to a wider audience, both in Korea and abroad, in order for people to better understand that sex workers are part of their communities and deserve the same rights just as everyone else.

Research Project Korea + You!

Research Project Korea is an independent research project, unaffiliated to any university or organisation and exclusively funded by private donations. We publish regular updates on the project’s website, where you can also learn more about my team, and you can follow us via Facebook and Twitter. A Korean language section will be added to the website shortly.

Please visit our website to learn how you can support us and how our funds are spent.

WordPress: http://researchprojectkorea.wordpress.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Research.Project.Korea
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/photogroffee

Further information and highly recommended viewing/reading

[VIDEO] “We want to save you. And if you don’t appreciate it, we will punish you!”
Swedish sexworker Pye Jacobsson on the criminalization of clients
http://swannet.org/node/1512

[ARTICLE] Wendy Lyon “UNAIDS Advisory Group condemns Swedish sex purchase ban”
http://feministire.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/unaids-advisory-group-condemns-swedish-sex-purchase-ban/

[VIDEO] South Korean sex workers rally | Reuters News Agency
http://www.reuters.com/video/2011/09/22/south-korean-sex-workers-rally?videoId=221848792

[IMAGES] South Korean Prostitutes Protest Closing of Brothels
http://www.time.com/time/photogallery/0,29307,2072487,00.html

[ORGANISATION] Giant Girls – Korean Sex Workers Union
http://www.ggSexworker.org

[ORGANISATION] Hanteo – National Sex Workers Union
http://www.han-teo.co.kr

63 Years On: Free Screening in Seoul this Sunday

With thanks to Shannon Heit for letting me know, this Sunday at Jogyesa Temple in Seoul there will be a free screening of 63 Years On, an award-winning documentary about the Comfort Women (with English subtitles). If you’re interested in attending, please see the press release (an MS Word file) for further details, and note that it actually starts at 2pm, not 3pm as stated in the poster (which I’ve confirmed is a mistake).