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A Korean Perspective: Both Could Be Right




I read with interest Jason Jason’s “A Korean Perspective on the Future of the Thai Bar Scene” and found it a pretty good read. I thought he made some great points comparing the Thai and Korean sex industries. But he gets a little beyond himself as to why it seems to be easier to recruit Korean women into the sex industry than Thai women. I didn’t agree very much with any of his reasons, especially the one regarding religion. All three religions consider prostitution an evil profession, but all three cultures have ways around this. Stick rightly reminded Jason that Thai people are making more money these days so being “made” to go into the industry is less of a factor. Yet Korea is going through a boom of its own so how is Korea able to offer a ready supply of, as Jason rightly points out, very beautiful women for sale? The answer may be both Stick and Jason are both right. It’s a matter of reading their answers in the correct context.

Jason’s list of where to find Korean sex workers is correct, as like him, I have seen some this myself but have never sampled. But how many of these venues are open to foreigners? Or better yet, how many foreigners are willing to venture into one of these places where only Korean is spoken? Certainly, the closer these places are to US military facilities or to other “foreigner” areas, the more accessible they are. But I would ask Jason to compare girls in these areas to the strictly-Korean places. As noted by several recent authors, these native-only Thai places seem to have the better eye candy. I will also bet that most, if not all, of these venues are owned by Koreans. This makes recruiting and managing the girls much easier; again, much the same as in Thailand. Yet don’t these owners compete with the expanding Korean economy for girls? If Stick is right, how can they do this?

The big difference is that Jason is describing the Korean-owned sex industry while Stick is talking about the foreign-owned one in Thailand. Why is that a big difference? Aren’t the girls just in it for the money? Well, yes and no. Let’s take a step back and consider something both Korean and Thai cultures have in common. Native women in public with white foreigners can invite scorn along with disrespect if the relatives or friends of these girls ever found out they were actually having sex with these foreigners for money. And let’s be brutally honest; this same prejudice exists with the girls themselves. Given a choice between two equally qualified foreign or native guys, who would the girls prefer to be with? Most, if not all, would go with what they know.

This is not an Asian phenomenon. Western and eastern and northern and southern girls have the same prejudice. Sure, money can convince them otherwise, but it is easier to recruit women to have sex with men they prefer than it is for men who are strange and even abhor. Given equal money, I could be more easily convinced to have sex with women that look like my wife vs. fat Russian women who smell of vodka. But there may be more at work here than simple foreign prejudice, and here it is.

I would assume the expanding Thai economy is raising both Thai men and women boats. And as Thai men have more money in their pockets, I would also assume they have more money to spend on their favorite Thai brothel. If so, the Thai brothel owners are able to recruit more Thai women into their Thai-only places of business. As Stick himself and other authors have noted, these establishments attract better quality of women than the foreign owned ones, even in bad times.

But there are more reasons for these women to work in a Thai brothel. First, working there still allows you some respect in Thai society. One of my wife’s friends works in one of these places along with an office job, yet she still hangs with her respectable friends. Also, working there she might meet a Thai man who is willing to make her his mia noi, a position of distinction in Thailand depending on who your patron is. Again, my wife, who is cut from one of the most conservative cloths of Thailand, has another friend who is a mia noi with a powerful man in a powerful company in Thailand. They have a daughter together and he is paying her tuition at a very good university in Bangkok, along with a new house and living expenses for all. Although many foreign men make similar offers of support to their Thai girlfriends, how many can offer the same respectability a rich Thai man can? And let’s be brutally honest again, most foreign men want sex for money, nothing more. What future is in that? Are Thai girls in Nana scamming you or are they demanding equal opportunity to what their Thai-only friends are getting?

The bottom line is that better economic conditions will favor the native sex industry, which dwarfs the foreign one in size. Thailand and Korea and all the other countries in the world that have sex for sale will still continue to exist and thrive no matter what the economic conditions. The old system In Thailand, born from a huge infusion of money from the Vietnam War that continued until recently, is now at an end. Foreigners must compete with natives for the best women on equal terms, which I have noted, are not equal at all.