Sex Trafficking…

Document Sample
Sex Trafficking… Powered By Docstoc
					                    Sex in the Company of Soldiers
The Role of Japan‟s Comfort System and U.S. Military Prostitution in the Development of
                      Eastern Asia‟s Contemporary Sex Industry

                                      Elya Filler
                                     Senior Thesis

                                Advisor: Kal Raustiala
                             Department of Global Studies
                          University of California, Los Angeles
                                Los Angeles, California
                                       June 2009
                                        Table of Contents

                                   Department of Global Studies


                                 Sex in The Company of Soldiers

                                            Elya Filler

                                          Senior Thesis


This paper explores the relationship between Japan‟s comfort system, U.S. military prostitution,

and the present sex industry in Eastern Asia. It provides a brief overview of sex trafficking and

what it entails. It then examines the history of Japan‟s comfort women during WWII together

with the thriving sex industry that developed around U.S. military bases in Korea and the

Philippines soon after. Next, it looks at the connection between Japan‟s comfort women and the

U.S.‟s implementation of military prostitution. Through examining the relationship between

militarism and prostitution, it draws a link between these two cases and the development of the

sex industry within their societies.
                                      Sex in the Company of Soldiers 3

      A New Era of Sex Trafficking----------------------------------------------------------------------4
      Regional Focus: Eastern Asia----------------------------------------------------------------------5
      Historic View: Military and the Sex Industry----------------------------------------------------6
Sex Trafficking: An Overview------------------------------------------------------------------------7-18
      Health Consequences for Those Trafficked------------------------------------------------------9
      Victim Profiles--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------11
      How are Victims Acquired by their Traffickers?-----------------------------------------------13
      Who is Involved?------------------------------------------------------------------------------------15
       Three Categories: Source, Transit, and Destination-------------------------------------------16
Case Study: Korea and the Philippines----------------------------------------------------------------18
Literature Review--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------18-22
       Korean Comfort Women---------------------------------------------------------------------------19
       Filipino Comfort Women--------------------------------------------------------------------------20
       U.S. Military Prostitution--------------------------------------------------------------------------21
Japan’s Imperial Army: Korean and Filipino Comfort Women-----------------------------23-31
       The Institutionalization of Sexual Slavery------------------------------------------------------24
U.S. Military Forces in Korea and the Philippines----------------------------------------------31-39
Additional Theories of Eastern Asia’s Sex Industry Development---------------------------39-43
       Cultural Legacy of the Patriarchal Society-----------------------------------------------------39
       Role of Poverty--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------40
       Weakness of Civil Society-------------------------------------------------------------------------41
       Role of Military Occupation----------------------------------------------------------------------42
                                       Sex in the Company of Soldiers 4

      In 1984, local authorities found the bodies of five young girls, between the ages of nine

and twelve, burned to death in a basement in Phuket, Thailand. A further investigation revealed

that the families of these children sold them into a local sex trafficking ring which held them

captive—chained to their beds—when the fire broke out.1 Thousands of miles away in the

summer of 2005, United States (U.S.) police forces arrested fifty individuals involved in two sex

trafficking rings that were responsible for the smuggling of hundreds of South Korean women

into the US. Traffickers forced these women to work as prostitutes in brothels disguised as

acupuncture clinics and massage parlors in San Francisco. Both victims informed police officers

that their traffickers transported them into the US through both Mexican and Canadian borders

where they easily acquired tourist visas.2 Two years later on August 8, 2007, Dateline NBC aired

a story about a young girl named Anna who after answering an ad to be a waitress, was

trafficked from her home in the Philippines to Malaysia where she was forced into prostitution.

Her virginity sold for the equivalent of eighty US dollars.3

A New Era of Sex Trafficking

        Millions of other victims of sex trafficking have similar stories to share. Trafficking for

sexual exploitation and prostitution are part of an extensive network and global phenomenon.4 At

the end of the 20th century, the global sex industry profited considerably in response to rising

tourism, opening up of borders, and growing ease and decreasing costs of transportation.

Moreover, increasing global interconnectivity through the internet and innovations in

     “Thailand the Trafficking of Women.” Paralumun New Age Village. Article on-line. Available from
      “US Smashes Sex Trafficking Rings.” BBC News, 2 Jul 2005. Article on-line. Available from
      Ciralsky, Adam and Chris Hansen. “Sex trafficked: Anna's story.” Dateline NBC, 8 Aug 2007. Article on-line.
Available from
      Brown, Louise. Sex Slaves: The Trafficking of Women in Asia (London: Virago Press, 2000), 4.
                                     Sex in the Company of Soldiers 5

communication technologies also facilitated the flow of people, resulting in increased sex

trafficking.5 The magnitude at which sex trafficking is now occurring is monumental. Never

before has there been a global sex industry involving the amount of victims trafficked, the scope

of distance transported, or the number of countries involved. The unprecedented forming of such

a vast, complex, and wide-ranging industry is staggering. Presently, approximately 2.4 million

people are estimated to be victims of sex trafficking.6 In light of these shocking statistics, the

following question compels an answer: When and how did this transnational sex industry first

start to grow into the present and colossal form it is today?

Regional Focus: Eastern Asia

        In order to address this question, I examine Eastern Asia, leading partaker in sex

trafficking and the region with the largest sex industry in the world. Eastern Asia is notorious for

both its sex industry and participation in international networks for the trafficking in women for

sex. More than any other region in the world, trafficking networks in Eastern Asia are well

developed and multifaceted, comprising an array of networks and individuals involved at various

levels.7 While numerous factors gradually contributed to the development and maintenance of

Eastern Asia‟s current sex industry, foreign military presence throughout the 20th century stands

out as the most influential factor first pushing it ahead of the rest of the world and eventually

causing it to be the focal point of the global sex trafficking ring.

     Aronowitz, Alexis. “Smuggling and Trafficking in Human Beings: The Phenomenon, the Markets that Drive It
and the Organisations that Promote It.” European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 2001, 163-195, 170
     “Sex Trafficking: The Facts Trafficking for Exploitation has Become an Epidemic in the Past Decade.” New
Internationalist, 2007. Article on-line. Available from
     Brown, Sex Slaves, 4.
                                  Sex in the Company of Soldiers 6

Historic View: Military and the Sex Industry

       In this paper, I am going to explore the contemporary origins and historical roots of

Eastern Asia‟s sex industry through a military framework. In doing so, I will look at the

establishment of military bases by foreign powers throughout the 20th century. In my

investigation, I examine the two following cases: Japan‟s Imperial Army in Korea and the

Philippines and U.S. military forces in Korea and the Philippines. I will demonstrate first, that

Japan through its institutionalization of sexual slavery in the form of the comfort system, used

the systematic regulation of sexual slavery and promotion of certain gender, race, and class

ideologies to further its imperial project. Second, in doing so, Japan laid a foundation of

ideologies and practices that continued to be used in the sex industry throughout the 20th century.

Third, following this occurrence, U.S. forces through the establishment of military bases in

Korea and the Philippines, further contributed economically, politically, and culturally to the

development of their domestic sex industries. These two events triggered the creation of

thousand of brothels around military sites facilitating the first widespread sex trafficking

movement throughout Eastern Asia consequently launching the expansion of both Korean and

Filipino sex industries.

       In the first section, I present a brief overview of sex trafficking and the sex industry. In

the subsequent section, I specifically investigate Korea and the Philippines. I start by explaining

why these two countries are important in looking at the relationship between military and

prostitution and indicative of a larger trend that occurred in Eastern Asia throughout the 20th

century. At this point, I discuss past literature on both Korean and Filipino comfort women and

U.S. military prostitution. Subsequently, I delve into the historical pasts of both Korea and the

Philippines specifically looking at earlier periods of military occupation in tandem with
                                   Sex in the Company of Soldiers 7

prostitution and the growth of the sex industry. The period of military occupation I focus on is in

the 20th century with first Japan‟s imperial army and second US military forces. Lastly, I confirm

the relationship between military occupation and the escalation of both the Korean and Filipino

sex industries that kicked off around the middle of 20th century and show how the effects of

which are still evidenced today.

                                   Sex Trafficking: An Overview

        In this section, I provide a brief summary of sex trafficking. I first define both the sex

industry and sex trafficking. Next, I describe the connection between the two and the relationship

between the two and prostitution. I then describe the various forms in which sex trafficking and

prostitution manifest themselves within the sex industry. Following, I list the health

consequences victims of sex trafficking encounter in order to ascertain the severity of the

situation. I also describe the characteristics of victims and explain why targeting of certain

individuals occurs. Lastly, I discuss how victims are acquired, who the perpetrators are, and the

different types of countries involved and their extent of involvement in global sex trafficking.


        For the purpose of this paper, it is important to note the relationship between prostitution,

the sex industry, and sex trafficking because all three terms are used considerably throughout the

text. Prostitution is one prominent aspect of the sex industry. It is a commercial sex act, which is

any sexual act, both voluntary and forced, in which something of value is exchanged.8 The sex

industry refers to the market in which victims of sex trafficking are forced to work.9 The sex

industry involves the commercial enterprise of selling bodies for the purpose of sexual

    Hughes, Donna M., Chon, Katherine Y., and Derek P. Ellerman. “Modern-Day Comfort Women: The U.S.
Military, Transnational Crime, and the Trafficking of Women.” Violence Against Women, 2007, 902.
    Aronowitz, “Smuggling and Trafficking,”168.
                                       Sex in the Company of Soldiers 8

exploitation. The sex industry includes but is not limited to the following: mail-order brides,

commercial prostitution, pornography, stripping, live sex shows, military prostitution, and sex

tourism.10 The sex industry and the issue of prostitution are both intimately tied to the illicit

market of sex trafficking in women.11 The trafficking in women serves the function of ensuring a

“steady supply of women to areas where men demand sexual services.”12 What exactly is sex

trafficking? Sex Trafficking is a common form of human trafficking currently going on at

substantial levels throughout the world. The U.S. definition of human trafficking involves

        […]all acts involved in the transport, harboring, or sale of persons within national or across international
        borders through coercion, force, kidnapping, deception, or fraud, for purposes of placing persons in
        situation of forced labor or services, such as forced prostitution, domestic servitude, debt bondage or other
        slave-like practices.13

        Sex trafficking, is distinguished from human trafficking by its specific element of sexual

exploitation and is estimated to account for eighty percent of all forms of trafficking.14

According to the “U.S. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000,” the official

definition of sex trafficking is “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining

of persons for the purpose of a commercial sex act.”15 Transnational trafficking occurs when the

trafficked victim crosses international borders whereas domestic trafficking occurs when victims

are recruited and transported within the same national territory. 16 Sex trafficking generally

entails long-term sexual exploitation for economic gain where the profit can be made both before

      “Fact Sheet: Sex Trafficking,” The Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human          Trafficking, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services, (2008) Available Online at:
      Aronowitz, “Smuggling and Trafficking,” 172.
      Enriquez, Jean. “Filipinas in Prostitution around U.S. Military Bases in Korea: A Recurring Nightmare,”
CATW-Asia Pacific.
      Miko, Frances T. and Grace Park. “Trafficking in Women and Children: The U.S. and           International
Response.” Report for Congress, 2002, 1-25, 1.
       “Sex Trafficking: The,” 1.
      Hughes, Donna M., et al, “Modern-Day,” 902.
                                      Sex in the Company of Soldiers 9

and during the time of transportation. Profits are also made following the transportation of the

trafficked victims to various destinations through their sexual exploitation.17

Health Consequences for Those Trafficked

        Victims of sex trafficking and forced prostitution encounter numerous physical and

mental health complications. Physical health problems include but are not limited to the

following: HIV, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, malignances, STDs, and various vaginal

infections. Along with numerous physical problems associated with sex trafficking, there are

also equally harmful mental health consequences. These include the following: shame,

depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addiction to narcotics, and suicidal thoughts.18

Shame is the most common and probably most detrimental of these mental health consequences.

        The first and perhaps deadliest physical consequence is the contraction of the Human

Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The global sex industry is a major source of HIV.19 According

to an article on the health consequences of trafficked victims, the second most HIV-affected

region is Southeast Asia just after Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2004, an estimated 7.5 million people

were infected with HIV in Southeast Asia.20 Southeast Asia‟s high level of HIV infected

individuals is specifically due in part to its thriving sex industry. Areas such as Thailand and

Cambodia are especially suffering from the increased amount of sex workers infected with HIV.

The growing prevalence of HIV infected sex workers also explains for the growing demand of

younger girls.

        Along with HIV, there are other threats to the physical health of victims including:

infertility, ectopic pregnancy, and malignancies that are associated with forms of sexually

      Aronowitz, “Smuggling and Trafficking,”172.
      Beyrer, Chris & Julie Stachowiak. “Health Consequences of Trafficking of Women and Girls in Southeast
Asia.” The Brown Journal of World Affairs, (2003), 106.
      Ibid., 105.
      Ibid., 107.
                                 Sex in the Company of Soldiers 10

transmitted diseases (STDs) such as the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).21 In response to the fear

of STDs, girls are recruited at younger and younger ages so that they are free of STDs. However,

because girls are being forced into prostitution as young as ten and twelve, there is a high

probability they will be infected with some form of STD by the time they are in their teens.

Consequently, by their early twenties they are forced to live on the streets because they are no

longer desirable to costumers. Many victims die from physical ailments and neglect before they

reach the age of thirty.22 A medical study of victims of sexual exploitation and forced

prostitution found that there are also numerous short-term complications. For instance, 95% of

victims in the study reported both physical and sexual violence. Another 57% of victims had

twelve to twenty-three simultaneous health problems and 16% said that they encountered weekly

gynecological infections, vaginal discharge, and pelvic pain.23

       The notion of shame is particularly relevant to this paper and discussed in greater depth

in later sections. While shame is not as physically damaging as addiction or suicidal thoughts, it

is one of the most common psychological burdens faced by victims of sex trafficking. Victims,

particularly from patriarchal societies, frequently fear the shame from their families and society.

They are afraid to be branded as a whore.24 Fear of this shame causes victims to remain silent.

Maki Kimura, author of “Narrative as a Site of Subject Construction: The „Comfort women‟

Debate” claims that narration is important for recovery from a traumatic experience. According

to Kimura, the pain and shame of a traumatic experience disrupts the coherence and connection

of an individual‟s sense of self and leaves them emotionally fragmented. Narration, while

     Ibid., 105.
     Brown, Sex Slaves, 210.
     “Sex Trafficking: The,”1.
     Brown, Sex Slaves, 233.
                                     Sex in the Company of Soldiers 11

painful, is essential for re-configuring and unifying the self both psychologically.25 However,

victims, unwilling to speak about their experience, suffer the emotional burden of rape, slavery,

and sexual exploitation leaving them extremely vulnerable to suicide, depression, and drug


Victim Profiles

        Sex trafficking victims generally share a specific profile with similar characteristics.

They tend to be uneducated women or children from poor financial backgrounds and

impoverished countries. Familiarity with this profile helps gain understanding of why certain

victims are targeted and also why victims tend to come from particular regions more than others.

This will be particularly useful in the later section on Korean and Filipino sex industries.

        Firstly, sex trafficking victims are primarily women. Ninety-eight percent of victims are

women, half of whom are under the age of eighteen.27 Traffickers target females for several

reasons. To start with, the low social status and subordination of women in many societies leaves

them extremely vulnerable and susceptible to entrapment by traffickers.28 Women in these

societies lack career opportunities and the assertiveness to stand up and protect themselves or

one another. Secondly, in many societal constructs, the female is an object of desire, there for

“men‟s gaze or use,” and a “body-for-others.”29

        Likewise, women from the developing world are specifically targeted in the sex industry.

The developed world has a high demand for women from the developing world. More and more

women from poor countries are used as a kind of global currency sold and exchanged on the

      Kimura, “Narrative,” 15.
      Beyrer et al, “Health Consequences,” 106.
      “Child Protection from Violence.”Unicef.
      Miko et al, “Trafficking in Women,” 2.
      Mirkinson, Judith. “Red Light, Green Light: The Global Trafficking of Women.” Breakthrough, 1994. Article
on-line. Available from        work/trafficking-of-
women.txt/document_view, 95.
                                      Sex in the Company of Soldiers 12

international market. In particular, women from poor countries in Eastern Asia are exported like

a commodity, from developing countries like the Philippines and Thailand to developed

countries like Japan.30 More than any other region, Westerners go to Eastern Asia to purchase

sex. This is largely a result of Western culture‟s eroticism of Asian women as fragile, exotic, and


          Additionally, sex trafficking victims are largely children. Over the past decade, the

premium age for sex workers in Asia has dropped drastically to between thirteen and sixteen.

Consumers demand highest for virgins.31 A recent UNICEF survey reports that minors account

for 20% to 50% of prostitutes in Lithuania and girls as young as ten are used in the making of

pornographic films. The same survey shows that in the Mekong sub region of Southeast Asia,

30% to 35% of all sex workers are between the ages of twelve and seventeen. A recent

organizational social service agency report cites Mexico with 16,000 child prostitutes.32 Children

are easy targets because they are easier to control and less expensive to purchase.33 In the later

section, the role of Amerasian children in prostitution will be discussed in regards to Korean and

Filipino sex industries.

          Furthermore, trafficked victims are primarily from poor backgrounds. For the most part,

victims who fall prey to traffickers are those poorest in their own countries.34 They generally

come from poor families in impoverished countries like South America and Eastern Asia. This

occurs for a variety of reasons. Although these women and children encounter gross violations of

their human rights, trafficking victims from poor families decreases the probability that they will

      Pettman, Jan Jindy. “Body Politics: International Sex Tourism.” Third World Quarterly, 1997, 93-108, 95.
      Brown, Sex Slaves, 4.
      “Child Protection from Violence.”Unicef.
      Todd, Halinah. “Prostitution.” The Mobilizer, 1993. Article on-line. Available from
      Aronowitz, “Smuggling and Trafficking,”172.
                                     Sex in the Company of Soldiers 13

be able receive assistance from them. They are essentially on their own and therefore easier

targets. Victims also tend to come from poor families because they are less educated and have

fewer opportunities. Therefore, they are more likely to be tricked into accepting a false job offer.

Lastly, poor families are more likely to sell their children into sex trafficking than wealthier

families because they are desperate and need the money.35

How are Victims Acquired by their Traffickers?

        Victims of sex trafficking are acquired through a variety of ways. They are either sold by

their families, forcefully kidnapped, recruited under false pretenses, or trapped financially. The

profile of victims plays an important role in the acquisition of victims. For example, victims

from poorer backgrounds are more likely to be sold or trapped into debt bondage, women are

more easily recruited with false job offers, and children are more vulnerable to being kidnapped.

         As previously mentioned, victims are predominantly women under the age of twenty-

five and children. This is because many societies view females as economic burdens. For this

reason, their families frequently sell them to traffickers or brothels in order to avoid the cost of a

dowry.36 This regularly occurs in parts of Eastern Asia where there are not only impoverished

areas but also many patriarchal societies. Women from these regions tend to be on the lower end

of the social hierarchy and therefore considered of lesser value.

        Another frequent form of victimization is kidnapping.37 Kidnapping is common in poor

areas because families of kidnap victims have little power to fight against the kidnapping of their

child. Conversely, kidnapping also takes place in wealthier parts of the world. Kidnapping of

      Hughes, Donna. “The Demand: Where Sex Trafficking Begins.” A Call to Action: Joining the Fight Against
Trafficking in Persons, 2004.
      Miko et al, “Trafficking in Women,” 2.
      Mirkinson, “Red Light.”
                                    Sex in the Company of Soldiers 14

children occurs because they are easier to physically handle and coerce. However, not all victims

are kidnapped or sold in sex slavery.

        It is also very common for traffickers to recruit victims with false or pretenses. In poor

countries, there is always a dream of a better life.38 Specifically, women from poor areas are

susceptible to luring with false promises of high paying jobs like tourist workers, au pairs,

models, dancers, or domestic workers. They accept these job offers to provide for their families

back home. Women often cross international borders willingly in order to obtain jobs but by the

time they realize what is going on, it is generally too late. As a result, they are held captive,

unable to escape, or do not have the money necessary to make it back to their home country.

Consequently, they have no other option than to work off their debt. Traffickers also commonly

promise victims that once they work off their debt they are free to go. This makes victims more

willing to cooperate. However, over time they find themselves in a form of financial bondage

called debt bondage.39

        Debt bondage occurs when an individual secures an advance on her earnings to pay for

the initial transportation to the country of destination. However, because these individuals tend to

be poor women, they lack understanding or the help of advocates making them especially

susceptible to the whims of their lenders. Therefore, traffickers and brothel owners are able to

manipulate and expand the debt forcing the individual into a financial bind that she is unlikely

able to evade. The individual is then forced to work off her debt by performing sexual acts that

she would otherwise refuse to do. This is a common practice used throughout the international

sex industry as a means of forcing women into prostitution.40 Debt bondage is particularly

     Aronowitz, “Smuggling and Trafficking,”172.
     Brown, Sex Slaves, 117.
     Ibid., 116.
                                        Sex in the Company of Soldiers 15

common in Asia. Parts of Asia, like Thailand and Cambodia have several of the worst cases of

debt bondage.41

Who is involved?

          In light of this societal crime, one must ask who the perpetrators of this crime are and

who is running the sex industry. There are several levels at which individuals are involved and

all play a significant role in maintaining and facilitating the sex industry. Most research findings

cite three different levels at which individuals are involved in the illicit sex industry. These


          […] those individual entrepreneurs who are involved in small-scale activities such as running a brothel in a
          particular area; the second or the mid-level prostitution schemes in which women are controlled by the
          clandestine operations, which imported them; the third and most sophisticated level involves large-scale
          international criminal organizations that are linked with domestic criminal organizations. The women under
          the third group's control have no documentation while kept under tight control. 42

          At the first level are pimps, brothel owners, and local operators and recruiters. Those

involved at this level engage in the commercial sale of women‟s bodies for sex. Traffickers

supply them with the girls they use to run their operations. Traffickers generally comprise the

second level at which individuals are involved. Traffickers are underground and do the brunt of

illicit work. They kidnap, purchase victims from their families who sell them, or lure victims

with false job offers. At the third and highest level are organized crime groups. Criminal

organizations are essential contributors to the business of international sex trafficking. 43 For

example, the Chinese and Vietnamese Triads, Japanese Yakuza, South American drug cartels,

Italian Mafia, and Russian gangs all have their hands in the global sex trafficking ring. They

organize and cooperate with local networks to provide the physical transportation of women as

well as manage illegal prostitution operations. They also supply other necessary components of

     Ibid., 117.
     Aronowitz, “Smuggling and Trafficking,”173.
     Hughes, “The Demand,” 4.
                                     Sex in the Company of Soldiers 16

trafficking such as safe houses, local contracts, and documentation.44 For example, Italy is a key

staging post for the transfer of child prostitutes from Asia to both the U.S and Western Europe.

More specifically, children born to poor families in China are often sold to the Italian mafia who

then transports them to other countries to work in brothels. A recent article in BBC News

discusses the arrest of both a Japanese man and Chinese woman in the Milan airport while

escorting a 12-year-old Chinese girl. The pair was an accomplice to the mafia and charged with

abduction and extortion. According to the young girl, she had been sold into prostitution by her

family in China, and then sent to work in a brothel in Thailand for some time before being

transferred to Miami.45

Three Categories: Source, Transit, and Destination

        Sex trafficking involves the interaction of supply and demand.46 In the organization of the

global sex trafficking industry, large regions in the world are characterized by providing either

the supply or the demand side of the sex trafficking industry. For example, core economies as in

the European Union (EU) and the U.S. generally provide the demand whereas poorer regions as

in Africa and Latin America provide the supply. There is significant movement of trafficked

victims from the developing world to the developed. However, in some, both supply and demand

are high. Eastern Asia is one region in particular where both supply and demand are high.

Countries like Thailand, China, Korea, and the Philippines have both an abundant supply of

women as well as an even higher demand created by locals and foreigners in the areas. Overall,

countries fall into three different categories: source, transit, and destination.

      Miko et al, “Trafficking in Women,” 3.
      “US Smashes Sex Trafficking Rings.” BBC News, 2 Jul 2005. Article on-line. Available from
      Aronowitz, “Smuggling and Trafficking,”172.
                                    Sex in the Company of Soldiers 17

       Source countries are those from which victims are regularly recruited or kidnapped.47 A

survey released in 2002 listed Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Russia, Uzbekistan, Nepal, Laos,

China, and the Philippines as source countries with the highest number of trafficked women.48

Both China and Thailand were listed as having “very high levels” and Cambodia and Vietnam as

having “high levels.”49 Overall, Asia is the largest source region providing over 225,000 victims

from Southeast Asia along with another 150,000 victims from South Asia annually.50

       There are certain routes, traffickers take when trafficking victims from source to

destination countries. The stops along these routes are known as transit countries. Countries of

transit with very high levels of trafficking activity are: Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Italy,

and Thailand. Moreover, countries that rank high as transit routes consist of Bosnia-

Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Kosovo, Yugoslavia and Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and

Montenegro, Slovakia, Ukraine, Burma, Turkey, Belgium, France, Germany, and Greece. 51 As

observed in the previous list, a number of transit countries are in Eastern Europe, which adds up

given its location between Asia, a primary supplier, and Western Europe, a major consumer.

       The last category is countries of destination, which are also known as receiving countries.

In receiving countries, there is always a high demand for cheap sex.52 Therefore, they acquire the

greatest amount of sex trafficking victims.53 The top destination countries include the following:

Thailand, China, Cambodia, India, Russia, Sweden, the U.S., and the EU.54 The U.S. stands out

with an estimated 50,000 women and children trafficked into its domestic borders annually.55

     Hughes, “The Demand,” 1.
     Beyrer et al, “Health Consequences,” 105.
     “Sex Trafficking: The.”
     Miko et al, “Trafficking in Women,” 2.
     “Sex Trafficking: The.”
     Aronowitz, “Smuggling and Trafficking,”172.
     Hughes, “The Demand,” 1.
     Beyrer et al, “Health Consequences,” 105.
      Miko et al, “Trafficking in Women,” 8.
                                   Sex in the Company of Soldiers 18

Other countries with significantly high ratings include Belgium, Germany, Greece, Italy, the

Netherlands, Israel, Turkey, and Japan.56 Japan, specifically, has the largest market for female

victims from other countries in Asia. Half of the victim trafficked into Japan are from the

Philippines and the other half are from both Thailand and Korea.57

                              Case Study: Korea and the Philippines

        In examining the historical connection between past incidents of military occupation and

the development of Eastern Asia‟s sex industry, Korea and the Philippines are valuable cases to

examine for several reasons. Firstly, both Korea and the Philippines are former colonies of the

Japanese imperial army and played a central role in its comfort system. Korea remained under

the power of Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945. 58 Secondly, following the withdrawal of

the Japanese imperial army at the end of WWII, the introduction of the U.S. military in both

countries provided a high demand allowing prostitution to persist. Lastly, shortly after military

bases were established in Korea and the Philippines, each respective country witnessed a

substantial growth in their sex industries.

                                          Literature Review


        Both topics of Japanese comfort women and U.S. military occupation with prostitution

are primarily examined in the academic disciplines of Feminism, Eastern Asian History, Global

Politics, and International Relations. Several prominent issues are addressed in the bulk of

scholarly work concerning these two topics. In the academic field of Feminism, the role of the

     “Sex Trafficking: The.”
     Miko et al, “Trafficking in Women,” 4.
     Soh, Chunghee Sarah. “The Korean “Comfort Women”: Movement for Redress.” Asian Survey, 1996, 1226-
1240, 1228.
                                  Sex in the Company of Soldiers 19

patriarchal society in the sex industry and its relationship with notions of shame and silence are

analyzed. Additionally, politics of race, class, gender, sex, and the state along with the recent

movement of comfort women for compensation and recognition are explored in the disciplines of

East Asian History, Global Politics, and International Relations. Lastly, what is not notably

discussed in existing academic work but is crucial to the subject of Japanese comfort women and

U.S. military prostitution, is the contribution each case made to the development of both Korean

and Filipino sex industries. In the following section, I not only provide a necessary assessment of

the work formerly completed but also demonstrate how my topic of interest contributes

something innovative to the field of work on military and the sex industry.

Korean Comfort Women

       More than any other case of military involvement with prostitution and sexual slavery,

extensive research has been dedicated to examining comfort women of the Japanese imperial

army. Comfort women is the name given to thousands of women forced into prostitution in the

Japanese comfort system throughout WWII. It later became the euphemism adopted by the U.S.

army to describe Korean and Filipino prostitutes that served troops throughout their presence in

both Korea and the Philippines. The abundance of academic work on comfort women has

primarily focused on Korean women, understandably so, since Koreans made up approximately

80% of women in the comfort system. Scholarly work on Korean comfort women generally

centers on both notions of shame and silence in Korean society and modern day movements to

seek compensation from the Japanese government.

       Author of The Comfort Women, George Hicks discusses the movement of comfort

women, starting in the late 1980s, to seek recognition and compensation by the Japanese

government for the atrocities committed and systematic exploitation inflicted on thousands of
                                       Sex in the Company of Soldiers 20

women throughout their period of expansion.59 After combining a detailed synopsis of the

Japanese implementation of comfort stations with personal testament of actual comfort women,

Hicks explores the struggles that face the movement and have aided silence for so long. These

include roles played by the notion of shame, importance of reputation and family honor, and the

high moral value placed on female chastity in maintaining a culture of silence in Asian


         Professor of Anthropology Chunghee Sarah Soh in “The Korean “Comfort Women”:

Movement for Redress,” further argues that in order to understand the phenomenon of military

comfort women, it has to be looked at through an analytical perspective considering interactions

of “gender, class, ethnicity, sexual culture, and role of the state.”61 Lastly, John Lie, author of

“The State as Pimp: Prostitution and the Patriarchal State in Japan in the 1940s,” examines the

comfort system from a race and gender perspective. Lie, along with various scholars, focuses on

the patriarchal role of the Japanese state in the exploitation of comfort women as a means to

assert their superiority over their inferior colonies. Lie argues that Japan excluded Japanese

women from the comfort system to promote the notion of family and country. Family and

country is the idea that men have the responsibility to protect their women and glorify the nation

and Emperor. An indispensable part of this concept was exploiting their colonized inferiors.62

Filipino Comfort Women

         Fewer works are available on the Filipina comfort women enslaved by the Japanese army

during WWII. Maria Rosa Henson‟s autobiography, Comfort Woman: Slave of Destiny, is the

     Hicks, George. The Comfort Women. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1995), 35.
     Hicks, The Comfort Women, 267.
     Soh, “The Korean,” 1227.
     Lie, John. “The State as Pimp: Prostitution and the Patriarchal State in Japan in the 1940s.” The Sociological
Quarterly, 1997, 251- 263, 254.
                                      Sex in the Company of Soldiers 21

first and probably most influential book on a Filipina comfort woman.63 In this startling yet

captivating piece, Henson describes her life before, during, and after her time in the comfort

system. Kidnapped from her hometown in the Philippines at the age of sixteen, Henson was held

captive for nine months in a comfort station where she was forced to service up to fifty men a

day. In the following excerpt, Henson describes a typical day at the comfort station.

        Twelve soldiers raped me in quick succession, after which I was given half an hour to rest. Then twelve
        more soldiers followed. They all lined up outside the room waiting their turn. I bled so much and was in
        such pain, I could not even stand up.64

        Serving as a true testament of bravery, Henson‟s autobiography has inspired numerous

past Filipina comfort women to speak up about their experiences. Moreover, being the first of its

kind, many scholars use Henson‟s autobiography in their exploration of comfort women. One

such scholar is Katharina Mendoza, who in her article “Freeing the „Slaves of Destiny‟: The

Lolas of the Filipino Comfort Women Movement” discusses Henson in the context of the

Filipino movement to seek reparations for wartime atrocities committed by the Japanese.

Mendoza further explores the topic of institutionalizing comfort in the Philippines also present in

numerous literatures on Korean comfort women.

U.S. Military Prostitution

        The greater part of work centered on U.S. military and its relationship to prostitution in

both Korea and the Philippines focuses on the roles governments have played in supporting and

maintaining the prostitution industry. Andris Zimelis, author of “Human Rights, the Sex Industry

and Foreign Troops: Feminist Analysis of Nationalism in Japan, South Korea and the

Philippines” argues that in the discourse on prostitution, U.S. military is an important character.

      Mendoza, Katharina R. “Freeing the „Slaves of Destiny‟: The Lolas of the Filipino Comfort Women
Movement.” Cultural Dynamics, 2003. Article on-line. Available from, 249.
      Henson, Maria Rosa. Comfort Woman: Slave of Destiny. Pasig City: Philippine Center for Investigative
Journalism, 1996, 61.
                                      Sex in the Company of Soldiers 22

Zimelis contends that this is observed in how South Korean and Filipino sex industries were

heavily geared towards servicing U.S. troops.65 Zimelis also discusses the nationalist Filipino

role in combating U.S. imperialism and the military prostitution activity that aids it. Lastly,

discourse on U.S. military prostitution often concentrates on the U.S.‟s part in the trafficking of

women for sex. Donna M. Hughes, Katherine Y. Chon, and Derek P. Ellerman, authors of

“Modern-Day Comfort Women: The U.S. Military, Transnational Crime, and the Trafficking of

Women” claims that U.S. military bases in South Korea have created an “international hub” for

the trafficking of women for sex.66 However, Zimelis argues that in the last decade there has

been a decline in U.S. military prostitution, a result of the changing nature of relations between

South Korea and the U.S. as South Korea‟s economy grows.


        The dialogue on comfort women and U.S. military prostitution is not yet complete

without the investigation of their larger effects on the sex industries in Korean and Filipino

societies. Japanese comfort women and the thriving activity of prostitution that took place

afterward around U.S. military bases in Korea and the Philippines are generally analyzed as two

unrelated events. Conversely, I argue that they are deeply related. In this paper, I provide an

extensive analysis of the influential and shared role of both Japan‟s comfort system and U.S.

military prostitution during the 20th century in fostering, shaping, and expanding Korean and

Filipino sex industries.

      Zimelis, Andris. “Human Rights, the Sex Industry and Foreign Troops: Feminist Analysis of Nationalism in
Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.” Cooperation and Conflict, 2009, 53.
      Hughes, Donna M., et al, “Modern-Day,” 901.
                                   Sex in the Company of Soldiers 23

                  Japan’s Imperial Army: Korean and Filipino Comfort Women


          At the start of the Second World War, few could possibly imagine the endless brutalities,

unspeakable infringements on human rights, and mass devastation and consumption of individual

lives that was soon to take place in the subsequent years. While the horrors of the Holocaust, the

attack on Pearl Harbor, and the devastation of the atomic bomb on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki

live fresh in our minds, few are familiar with the inexplicable damage inflicted on the lives of

tens of thousands of women and children throughout WWII. Forced and deceived into lives of

sexual exploitation, prostitution, and slavery, these comfort women mark an era of injustice

haunting Japanese history.67 While women came from many prior Japanese colonies such as

Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, China, and Indonesia, this paper concentrates on comfort women

from the Philippines and Korea.68 Both under Japanese occupation throughout WWII, the

Philippines and Korea endured the brunt of Japan‟s destructive imperialistic endeavors. An

analysis of the comfort system provides evidence supporting this system‟s development as part

of the Japanese government‟s imperial ambitions. It also laid a foundation that enabled further

sexual exploitation to occur in both Korea and the Philippines. It can be argued that the Japanese

government did this through its institutionalization of sexual slavery, which involved both the

systematic regulation of prostitution and the promotion of specific gender, racial, and class

ideologies. Lastly, through analyzing the similarities between the comfort system and modern

day sex trafficking, it is apparent that aspects of the comfort system are still observable today.

       Soh, “The Korean,” 1228.
       Kimura, “Narrative,” 5.
                                      Sex in the Company of Soldiers 24

The Institutionalization of Sexual Slavery

       The comfort system was part of the disciplinary institution for military personnel and

included prostitution and sexual enslavement. It was initiated at the start of WWII by the

Japanese Government in order to service the Japanese nation and its imperial ambitions.69 While

prostitution and rape has frequently accompanied the presence of military soldiers, it is unique

for a modern state to assume the full responsibility of organizing its own sexual slavery service.70

In both Korea and the Philippines, this Japanese institution provided systematic regulation of

prostitution and the promotion of particular beliefs about gender and race. It also introduced

certain ideologies and methods that were later adopted and passed down through multiple

generations of traffickers.

       The Japanese believed the comfort system was critical to both the “optimal functioning of

its military machine as well as the trouble free management of territories it invaded and

occupied.”71 Like every other piece of Japan‟s imperial project, in order to perform these

functions each aspect of the comfort system had to be strictly and systematically controlled.

Therefore, the Japanese government launched and managed this “exclusive, elaborate, and

strictly regulated system of prostitution” with a specific set of rules and techniques regarding the

recruiting, transporting, and harboring of comfort women and the strict management of soldiers

who visited them.72

       One form of regulation encompassed recruiting techniques. In Korea and the Philippines,

the Japanese used an organized technique to recruit Korean and Filipino women for their comfort

system. One aspect of this technique included targeting specific types of women. These women

     Mendoza, “Freeing the…,” 250.
     Lie, “The State as Pimp,” 251.
     Mendoza, “Freeing the…,” 248.
                                    Sex in the Company of Soldiers 25

were generally unmarried, young, and from rural areas and poor uneducated families. According

to a survey of nineteen past comfort women, the majority had little formal education, only one of

the nineteen was married when taken, and seventeen were from farming backgrounds.73 Japanese

recruiters also targeted women who were unmarried and young because they were more likely

free of diseases. It is not a coincidence that characteristics of these women are the same as

present day victims of sex trafficking. The Japanese sought out these types of women because

they were most vulnerable to their recruitment practices. Having been passed down over the

years, modern-day traffickers continue to use this specific practice of targeting victims.

        However, various methods were used by the Japanese government to recruit for the

comfort system. Methods of recruitment are divided into four main categories: “recruitment by

violence, including threats of violence and the misuse of power; false promises of employment;

abduction; human traffic.”74 Japanese soldiers and military police primarily carried out the first

method, recruitment by violence. The second and third methods, abduction and human traffic,

were carried out by both civilians and soldiers.75 The Japanese also took many comfort women

straight from their homes. For example, previously mentioned Maria Rosa Henson was

kidnapped at age fifteen from her town in the Philippines and taken to a comfort station nearby

where she was held captive for nine months.76 By the end of the nine months, Henson had

forcibly serviced thousands of soldiers.77Furthermore, Yoshida Seiji, a man responsible for

recruiting Korean women, testified that he was given trucks and soldiers by the Japanese Army

headquarters to forcibly procure women for the comfort system.78

      True Stories of the Korean "Comfort Women.” The Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual
Slavery by Japan, London: Cassell, 1995, 18.
      Henson, Comfort Woman, 77.
      Henson, Comfort Woman, 69.
      True Stories of Korean, 18.
                                   Sex in the Company of Soldiers 26

       The characteristics previously mentioned played an important role in the success and

likewise continued use of certain methods over others. For example, recruitment through false

promises of employment is one of the most effective methods used today. The Japanese first

used this technique to target women from rural, poor, and uneducated areas. Strategically,

Japanese authorities employed Korean and Filipino civilians as recruiters. Local Korean and

Filipino authorities such as community officers, village heads, and civilian employees were

complicit in this practice as well.79 In one particular case in Korea, Japanese authorities insisted

that families give up one female to work for the military. To encourage compliance, Japanese

authorities told women they would obtain jobs as seamstresses and nurses or work in a hospital

or factory.80 In one testimony, a Korean comfort woman named Kim Suntok claims that when

recruited she had no education and saw working in a factory as a way to earn money. She had no

idea she would be forced into sexual slavery.81

       The story of Kim Suntok is not very different from stories of many current victims of sex

trafficking. In fact, politics of gender, class, and race in the comfort system are very similar to

those of the contemporary sex industry. As witnessed in both the comfort system and the existing

sex industry, poor women from the developing world have been and continue to be the primary

victims of sexual exploitation. First targeted for their vulnerability, these women continued to

suffer as this trend persisted throughout the development of the sex industry.

       Moreover, through the comfort system, the Japanese imperial army regulated the first

large-scale trafficking of women across national borders. The Japanese military in cooperation

with domestic recruiters, managed the physical movement and transportation of comfort women

     True Stories of Korean, 19.
     Kimura, “Narrative,” 9.
     Ibid., 10.
                                      Sex in the Company of Soldiers 27

from their home countries to military bases around Eastern Asia.82 One particular approximation

predicts that the Japanese transported around 200,000 women to comfort stations.83 The

Japanese, in transporting this vast quantity of women, required an extensive network and

organizational capacity similarly seen in the existing sex industry.84 As a matter of fact, local

Korean and Filipino recruiters that participated in this Japanese network later aided the

development of trafficking networks around U.S. military bases.

       Thirdly, the Japanese closely monitored and systematically regulated every aspect of the

comfort stations. For example, women were not allowed to leave the comfort stations. One past

Korean comfort woman, Yi Tongsu, describes the comfort station where she was sent:

       The comfort Station was a two-story Japanese-style building with 20 rooms. There were already many
       women there when I arrived….The rooms were very small. Each was big enough for two people to lie
       down in. At the entrance of each hung a blanket in place of a door. The walls were laid with wooden
       boards, and there was nothing else.85

Comfort women were physically under house arrest by Japanese authorities. The Japanese also

regulated sexual service of soldiers by comfort women. Several testimonies of past comfort

women describe the way in which they were forced to provide sexual services to soldiers in a

“relatively organized manner.”86 Many comfort women were forced to service up to seventy

soldiers a day.87

       Comfort stations were also managed by a strict set of rules that dealt with issues of

operation hours, fees, medical check-ups, and standards of sanitation. For example, hours of

operation for soldiers were fixed, allowing each unit access on a different day of the week and

     Lie, “The State as Pimp,” 254.
     Brown, Sex Slaves,8.
     Lie, “The State as Pimp,” 254.
     True Stories of Korean, 93.
     Kimura, “Narrative,” 6.
     Soh, “The Korean,” 8.
                                        Sex in the Company of Soldiers 28

each soldier either thirty minutes or an hour of time with a woman. 88 As a consequence of this

excessive sexual activity and abuse, many women suffered from severe physical ailments such as

infertility, venereal infections, and the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases. 89

         Moreover, Japanese authorities maintained a strictly regulated brothel system to monitor

health of soldiers. Comfort stations were implemented to reduce the prevalence of venereal

diseases amongst troops. Mendoza describes the strict guidelines for monitoring sex within the


         […]all comfort women had to be examined by a doctor or medic every few days, but the soldiers
         themselves were also expected to keep close watch over the women with whom they had sex…Brigade
         headquarters „relentlessly warned soldiers to check prostitutes‟ health certificates, to use condoms and
         “Secret Star Cream” disinfecting lubricant, and to wash their genitals with disinfectant after going to the
         comfort station‟.90

Henson provides another view of a comfort station in the Philippines stating that she was forced

to service soldiers from two in the afternoon to ten in the evening without having time in

between assaults to wash herself.91 Unlike the health consequences of comfort women, Japanese

authorities took monitoring the health of soldiers very seriously. They believed that key to

maintaining a powerful army is having strong and healthy men to comprise its military force. For

this reason, the Japanese military personnel obsessively watched over the health of soldiers‟.92

However, along with protecting the soldiers‟ physical health, the governing authorities knew that

training soldiers to administer this kind of self-surveillance also strengthened Japanese

imperialistic ideologies in the men.

         The self-surveillance mentioned in the previous section refers to Japanese soldiers‟

training through the comfort system to view the bodies of foreign women as dangerous and

     True Stories of Korean, 20.
     Hicks, The Comfort Women, 21.
     Mendoza, “Freeing the…,” 252.
     Henson, Comfort Woman, 61.
     Mendoza, “Freeing the…,” 252.
                                     Sex in the Company of Soldiers 29

transmitters of disease that required constant vigilance. The sexual slavery of the comfort system

also disciplined soldiers in imperialistic ideologies.93 The Japanese imperial army promoted male

and racial power hierarchies and domination of the weak.94 The Japanese government imparted

these ideologies to soldiers in a form of masculinity. Soldiers assumed this masculinity by way

of comfort women. Jan Jindy Pettman, author of “Body Politics: International Sex Tourism,”

refers to victims of global sexual politics as the “forgotten women.” Comfort women were

displaced by the dominant group, Japanese soldiers, in the construction of their masculinity.95

       Drawing upon Henson‟s personal narrative further illustrates this point. In her personal

narrative, Henson discusses several incidents of violence and humiliation at the comfort station.

She claims that when a soldier did not feel satisfied with her or ejaculated prematurely, he vented

his anger out on her. In one particular incident, Henson states that a soldier, after accidently

staining his pants with his own semen, started to punch Henson‟s stomach and legs.96 These

incidents portray the effects of constructing this type of masculinity. Japanese soldiers were

trained to respond to embarrassment and disappointment, and as in the case with the pre-

ejaculation story, with violence. Through doing this, they blame their failures on others enabling

them, in spite of anything that humiliates or intimidates them, to continue to feel superior to

those colonized. This mentality and idea of self-worth is crucial to imperialism. In order to

participate in the domination of others, the colonizers must truly believe they are superior to the

colonized. In this context, the Japanese government “planned, administered, and construed” the

sexual abuse and exploitation of comfort women to shape soldiers into a type of masculine entity

     Mendoza, “Freeing the…,” 249.
     Pettman, Jan Jindy. “Body Politics: International Sex Tourism.” Third World Quarterly, 1997, 93-108, 94.
     Henson, Comfort Woman, 65.
                                       Sex in the Company of Soldiers 30

that believed in their supremacy and thus suited the Japanese military machine.97

        Additionally, Japan also used the sexual domination of women to debase and shame those

colonized and to assert dominance. Both Korea and the Philippines are traditionally patriarchal

and conservative societies that hold chastity in high esteem. One Korean comfort woman stated

that chastity is so important in Korea that many would sacrifice their life for it.98 Both Korean

and Filipino societies also believe that male honor is tied to protecting a woman‟s sexual

respectability. In other words, it is the man‟s responsibility to protect his women from foreign

men.99 Japan took advantage of this cultural norm and exploited its weaknesses. In both Korea

and the Philippines, Japan purposely targeted young and innocent women to work in comfort

stations. They referred to this as “the service of virgins.” This action not only shamed women but

significantly damaged the masculine identities of Filipino and Korean men.

        Japanese imperialistic ideologies involved race as well. Japanese also targeted Koreans

when recruiting for the comfort system. Targeting Koreans had to do with colonial notions of

superiority. The Japanese believed Koreans were inferior to them. Lie argues that Korea‟s

exceptionally severe colonial experience was a result of their racial similarities to the

Japanese.100 Japan felt that because of existing similarities it was crucial to prove Korean

inferiority. Therefore, Japan used the comfort system to degrade and dehumanize its colonized



        Japan first manipulated gender and racial ideologies to promote its imperialistic project.

Over time, these ideologies manifested themselves into a type of masculinity and culture in the

      Mendoza, “Freeing the…,” 251.
      Kimura, “Narrative,” 17.
      Zimelis, “Human Rights…,” 61.
      Lie, “The State as Pimp,” 255.
                                         Sex in the Company of Soldiers 31

sex industry. This culture, present in Korea, the Philippines, and many other Eastern Asian

societies, emphasizes sexual dominance over women. Playing on old yet ongoing relations of

domination, the sex industry capitalizes on male desires for control and supremacy. Pettman

argues that notions of dominant groups having the right to the bodies of “subordinated, colonized

or slave women” are still very prevalent throughout the global sex industry. Korean and Filipina

women, along with women from many Asian countries, are sexualized reproducing these past

feelings of colonial romances. Domestic traffickers of these exotic “Third World” countries

capitalize off these popular concepts and advertise women as exotic, sexual, and most

importantly passive.102 Ultimately, this culture is used as a justification for the continued abuse

and sexual exploitation of women in the sex industries of these developing countries.

                           U.S. Military Forces in Korea and the Philippines


          In1944, U.S. forces landed in the city of Leyte in order to start the liberation of the

Philippines from the Japanese army. Around the same time, U.S. military forces also landed in

Korea to accept the surrender of Japan. As the Second World War came to a close, U.S. forces

began setting up military bases in both countries. From the establishment of military bases in the

1940s, U.S. troops remained in the Philippines until the 1990s and still remain in Korea today.

With U.S. military presence began a new era of sexual exploitation for both Filipina and Korean

women. In both Korea and the Philippines, the presence of U.S. military troops has indisputably

played a significant role in the formation of their domestic sex industries and likewise the

development of sex trafficking networks.103 U.S. military bases contributed to the expansion of

        Pettman, “Body Politics…,” 97.
        Soh, “The Korean,” 1231.
                                    Sex in the Company of Soldiers 32

Filipino and Korean sex industries in three major ways: economically, politically, and culturally,

the effects of which are observable today.


        U.S. military bases played an important economic role in the growth of both the Filipino

and Korean sex industries. Specifically, in the Philippines over the course of five decades, U.S.

troops and sailors from visiting naval fleets were serviced by thousands of women from local

towns.104 Learning from their experience with the Japanese, Filipino authorities knew that with

the company of troops came a high demand for women and a potential for foreign currency.

Therefore, when U.S. forces began setting up military bases throughout various parts of the

country, the Philippines saw this occasion as an opportunity to gain a new source of income.

With this goal in mind, local Filipina women became a new commodity prostituted for U.S.

dollars. The result was the development of a thriving sex industry where local and foreign

businesses could profit off the “entertainment industry” and likewise local governments off the

lucrative rest and recreation (R & R) business.105Almost instantaneously after military bases

were set up, numerous bars, clubs, and brothels sprouted up in the adjacent towns. Equally

abrupt, local operators and recruiters began trafficking women from various regions to these

military bases for the purpose of prostitution.106 These traffickers, often the operators and

recruiters that cooperated with the Japanese in the comfort system, used former comfort women

who were unable to get away for economic reasons as well as local Filipina women.107

        Halinah Todd, feminist author of “Prostitution” found in The Mobilizer, discusses two

specific cities that became economically dependent on the sex business fueled by nearby U.S.

      Brown, Sex Slaves,9.
      Enriquez, “Filipinas…”
      Hughes, Donna M., et al, “Modern-Day,” 901.
      Hicks, The Comfort Women, 21.
                                      Sex in the Company of Soldiers 33

military bases. The first is the city of Olongapo where the U.S. Subic Bay Naval Base was

established. The U.S. Subic Bay Naval Base was the largest U.S. military base outside of the

U.S. itself.108 In little to no time, the city of Olongapo became economically dependent on the

prostitution of their women and children to sailors from this naval base. 109 In the city of

Olongapo near the U.S. Subic Bay Naval Base, 17,000 women had been prostituted by the end of

their stay in the Philippines.110

         Similar to Olongapo, prostitutes from Angeles became an integral part of the city‟s

service to the nearby Clark Air force Base. Todd refers to Olongapo and Angeles as “liberty

towns,” which is the name given to a city or town liberated from the Japanese by U.S. troops

during WWII. Particularly more than others, government authorities supported and even

encouraged this illicit sex industry because it brought in a considerable amount of U.S. currency

to the Filipino economy. 111 By the mid 1980s, an estimated 500 million in U.S. dollars had been

generated by the sex industries around U.S. military bases in the Philippines.112 While the

demand for sex trafficking had constantly been high near U.S. military bases, gradually this

demand extended outwards into all major cities throughout the Philippines and by 2007, this was

home to one of the largest sex trafficking rings in the world. According to the “2007 US

Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report,” an estimated 300,000 to 400,000 women

and 60,000 to 100,000 children are victims of sexual exploitation and prostitution in the

Philippines. 113

       Enriquez, “Filipinas…”
       Todd, “Prostitution,”
       Enriquez, “Filipinas…”
       Todd, “Prostitution,”
       Miko et al, “Trafficking in Women,” 2.
       “US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report.” 2007. Article on-line. Available from
                                      Sex in the Company of Soldiers 34

         U.S. military forces also contributed economically to the expansion of Korea‟s sex

industry. Presently, every military base in Korea has a thriving sex industry right beside it. 114

Employing about 260,000 women, the sex industry in South Korea is a twenty-one billion dollar

business accounting for about 4% of the country‟s gross domestic product (GDP). 115 An

estimated 358,000 men purchase sex each day and about twenty percent of men between the ages

of twenty and sixty-four purchase sex an average of 4.5 times a month. 116 Specifically, the area

known as “Hooker Hill” in Seoul‟s expatriate district of Itaewon receives its clientele from the

U.S. 8th Army Base which is the headquarters of 33,000 troops stationed in Korea. 117 Similar to

the situation in the Philippines, large scale commoditization of sex in Korea first began with the

establishment of U.S. military bases in the late 1940s. Resembling the Filipino government, the

Korean government also condoned, if not openly encouraged the prostitution of young women to

U.S. troops to earn foreign currency. These women were referred to as “kisaeng” otherwise

known as “professional female entertainers.”118 The demand for these kisaeng started the first

across-the-board domestic trafficking of Korean women to brothels around military bases.119

From the 1960s to the 1980s, the U.S. military had a direct hand in the sex trade of women.120 Its

bases became an international hub for the trafficking of women for various forms of sexual

exploitation such as prostitution and live sex shows.121 By 2007, 100 U.S. military bases had

        Jung, Dan. “Sex Trafficking.” San Francisco Chronicle. Video on-line. Available from
        Dan, “Sex Trafficking.” And Salmon, Andrew. “South Korea Targets Sex Trade, for Now.” The New York
Times, 19 October 2004, Article on-line. Available from
        Purcell, Conor. “Sex Life Active, Sex Trade Thriving in Korea.” The Seoul Times, 22 May 2009.Article on-
line. Available from
        Salmon, “SouthKorea,”
        Soh, “The Korean,” 1231.
        Hughes, Donna M., et al, “Modern-Day,” 901.
        Sang-Hun, Choe. “Ex-prostitutes say South Korea Enabled Sex Trade near U.S. Military Bases.” International
Herald Tribune, 8 Jan 2009. Article on-line. Available from
         Hughes, Donna M., et al, “Modern-Day,” 901.
                                    Sex in the Company of Soldiers 35

been established in South Korea with over 37,000 troops and over one million women had been

used in prostitution by these troops.122


        Not only did military prostitution contribute economically to the development of the sex

industry in the Philippines and Korea, but the sex industry also played an important political role

in U.S./Filipino and U.S./Korean relations. Similar to the Japanese comfort system, the creation,

maintenance, and availability of prostitution became institutionalized as a central part of U.S.

military's strategies for promoting troop morale and good relations between the U.S. and both the

Philippines and Korea. Particularly in Korea, from the 1950s to the 1970s, rest and relaxation

centers were set up for U.S. troops by the United States Forces in Korea (USFK) to provide

entertainment to troops to improve overall morale. 123

        Inherent to upholding troop morale was guaranteeing their safety. The U.S. adopted

stringent regulation strategies similar to those of the Japanese comfort system to ensure soldiers

were not only sexually satisfied but also healthy. One strategy they implemented in both

countries was the systematic regulation of soldiers and prostitutes through the creation of social

hygiene clinics. These medical clinics were located in towns near various military bases.

Specifically in the Philippines, the regulation process required at least 75% of women in an

establishment to be registered with a clinic. If an establishment failed to do so, they were off-

limits to U.S. servicemen.124 In Korea, the U.S. military in cooperation with local authorities also

attempted to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases through regulating prostitution

      Hughes, Donna M., et al, “Modern-Day,” 904.
      Ibid., 903.
      Enriquez, “Filipinas…”
                                      Sex in the Company of Soldiers 36

in towns around bases.125 Local authorities frequently rounded up prostitutes by U.S. bases and

brought them to nearby clinics where they were forced to have penicillin injections and group

venereal disease examinations. According to Zimelis, women at these clinics were often given

insufficient doses of medication or quarantined without food or water. Women were also given

tags to wear so that soldiers were able to identify their sex partners.126


        There are also several cultural ways in which U.S. military bases contributed to the

development and maintenance of Filipino and Korean sex industries. These cultural features

pertain to the following: the “law of the penis,” the cycle of prostitution among “Amerasian

children,” and the notion of silence. 127 In both Filipino and Korean patriarchal societies, a

culture developed that both justified and facilitated the sexual exploitation of women. This

culture can be referred to as the “law of the penis.” The law of the penis is the idea that it is not

only socially acceptable but a right of a man to purchase sex.128 Through institutionalizing

prostitution, U.S. forces implicitly promoted the social acceptability of sexual exploitation of

women and likewise advancement of this ideology. Gradually, the law of the penis was accepted

throughout not only Korea and the Philippines but many parts of Eastern Asia. Now, despite

international declarations and national laws, which Brown claims are nothing more than “empty

gestures” to appeal to moral sensitivities, the law of the penis remains an unspoken and well-

respected authority. Along the same lines, while not openly recognized in any legal code, its

widespread acceptance permits prostitution and the business of sex trafficking to take place.129

      Sang-Hun. “Ex-prostitutes”
      Zimelis, “Human Rights…,” 52.
      Enriquez, “Filipinas…,”185,
      Brown, Sex Slaves, 185.
                                     Sex in the Company of Soldiers 37

         For example, in spite of the fact that South Korea enacted an anti-sex trafficking law

forbidding the buying or selling of women, its sex industry clearly continues to thrive.130 Sex

trade is not only orderly and well established but also located is practically every city throughout

the country. 131 The selling of sex visibly takes place in barber shops, room salons, hostess bars,

strip clubs, massage parlors, brothels, juicy bars, and glass houses. For example, two barber shop

poles are a well-known sign for prostitution. 132 Room salons and juicy bars are also common

locations for prostitution. Room salons are well-established high-end corporate entertainment

outlets where businessmen go to relax, make corporate deals, and buy sex.133 Juicy bars, on the

other hand, are lower-end brothel-like establishments especially common in large cities. Lastly,

glass houses, a popular Korean invention where women literally sit in glass boxes all day until a

men purchases them for sex, are visibly located throughout the city. 134 Overall, from these

examples, it is evident that prostitution continues to occur despite any national law.

         Along with promoting the social acceptance of prostitution, U.S. forces also fostered the

cycle of prostitution through their disregard of Amerasian children. The term Amerasian refers to

children that were born to Filipina and Korean prostitutes and American GIs. Specifically, in the

Philippines, an estimated 30,000 Amerasian children were born around U.S. military bases. Todd

discusses how Amerasian children are particularly susceptible to being lured into prostitution

because they do not receive financial assistance from the U.S. or their national government

placing them in an economically desperate situation. This cycle can persist for multiple


      Dan, “Sex Trafficking.” and Salmon, “South Korea.”
      “Sex Among Allies-but not Sex by the Ally: Korea‟s Focus on the Evil of USFK Prostitution but in Broader
Korea Society.” Article on-line. Available from
      Purcell, “Sex Life Active,”
      Dan, “Sex Trafficking” and Salmon, “South Korea.”
      Dan, “Sex Trafficking.”
      Todd, “Prostitution.”
                                   Sex in the Company of Soldiers 38

          Lastly, a culture of silence also accompanied U.S. military prostitution. A culture of

silence refers to the role silence plays in averting shame and dishonor to one‟s family and

society. A culture of silence discourages voicing one‟s suffering and mistreatment for it is often

accompanied with shame. This notion played an important role in the growth of the sex industry

in both the Philippines and Korea. In the Philippines, a “blanket of community silence” passively

permitted U.S. soldiers to sexually exploit Filipina women. The blanket of community silence

refers to the communal and implicit agreement of compliance by Filipino towns. It first arose in

liberty towns. Liberated by U.S. troops from the Japanese army, liberty towns felt indebted to

U.S. forces. Along with providing their women, liberty towns paid back their debt by

maintaining silence and in other words compliance. 136 This action had several critical

consequences for victims and the sex industry as a whole. As I previously mentioned, Filipino

society is patriarchal and has a significant degree of gender discrimination. In this context, the

rights of Filipina women forced into prostitution for U.S. soldiers were waived for the betterment

of the community. Essentially, victims were discouraged to voice the injustices committed

against them by U.S. soldiers.

          Through accommodating silence, the community also hinders any legal action from

taking place against perpetrators of serious crimes. For example, in the city of Olongapo fifteen

Filipino children, aged twelve and up, were admitted to a local hospital for multiple unknown

sores found on their bodies. Doctors diagnosed the sores as being symptoms of syphilis,

gonorrhea, genital herpes, on top of numerous physical beatings. After further investigation,

local authorities discovered that these children were all victims of the same prostitution ring

arranged by a Filipina businesswoman for an American navy officer stationed at Subic Bay

        Enriquez, “Filipinas…”
                                   Sex in the Company of Soldiers 39

Naval Base. Local authorities, not wanting to strain relations with the U.S. base, were unwilling

to pursue further action against the naval officer. The local Irish priest, taking responsibility into

his own hands, leaked the story to the press. Ultimately, the officer was only sentenced to a few

months in prison in Guam for rape, the Filipina conspirer was never charged, and the priest was

threatened with deportation.137 As witnessed in the previous story, the sexual exploitation and

abuse of Filipina women and children continued to occur throughout the 20th century with very

few barriers.

                  Additional Theories of Eastern Asia’s Sex Industry Development

          Several other theories also exist regarding the development of Eastern Asia‟s sex

industry. The most prominent of these attribute development to factors of Eastern Asian

infrastructure and society which include the following: the cultural legacy of patriarchy,

prevalence of poverty, and the weakness of civil society. After examining these various theories,

I argue that the role of infrastructural factors does not invalidate the role of military occupation

but instead operates alongside it in the growth of Eastern Asia‟s sex industry.

Cultural Legacy of the Patriarchal Society

          The first theory focuses on the role of gender discrimination and the subordination of

women in patriarchal societies. This theory states that throughout the latter half of the 20th

century, the subordination of women economically and educationally fostered growing

opportunity disparities between men and women. According to Brown, Asia is also the home to

some of the worst gender discrimination in the world.138 Women had significantly fewer job

opportunities than men. Poor women from impoverished countries especially experienced the

        Todd, “Prostitution.”
        Brown, Sex Slaves,4.
                                     Sex in the Company of Soldiers 40

burden of these inequalities. Poverty coupled with lack of opportunities for women greatly eased

the recruitment process for traffickers.139 For example, in Thailand and the Philippines, poverty

was the main reason women were vulnerable to false job offers from trafficking gangs.140

        Likewise, this theory also argues that the sex trafficking business developed in Eastern

Asia to meet the sexual needs of men that could not be met by their own women. In the

patriarchal state, power is predicated on male control of female sexuality.141 Around the middle

of the 20th century, a socially accepted dichotomy, involving the high moral value on female

chastity and the commoditization of the female body, developed in mainstream Asian culture. 142

Essentially, they were two sides of the same coin. They were both ways in which men controlled

the sexuality of women. According to Lie, the basic rationalization of patriarchy is paternalism:

“the duty of men to protect women.” One aspect of this notion includes protecting female honor,

or chastity. However, the protection of certain women required the sacrifice of other women.143

Therefore, vast numbers of foreign women and women viewed as less respectable such as the

poor were trafficked to countries like the Philippines and Korea and sold on the East Asian sex


Role of Poverty

         The second theory argues that poverty played the most imperative role in the

development of Eastern Asia‟s sex tourist industry. Throughout the 20th century, countries like

the Philippines, Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam were extremely poor and had high levels of

unemployment. As a result, the sex business established an unofficial partnership with the

      Hughes, “The Demand,” 1.
      Intathep, Lampai. “Thailand Remains Centre for Human Trafficking.” Bangkok Post, 2008. Article on-line.
Available from
      Lie, “The State as Pimp,” 251.
      Hicks, The Comfort Women, 21.
      Lie, “The State as Pimp,” 252.
      Brown, Sex Slaves,7.
                                        Sex in the Company of Soldiers 41

government and tourist industry to attract foreign capital.145 Package tours were created that

included airfare, accommodations, and women for sexual pleasure.146 Throughout the 1960s

and70s, governments in these countries took various steps to facilitate growth in the business of

sex. Hughes argues that these governments used their power to shape policies that facilitated the

flow of women into their sex industries to meet the rising demand from tourists.147 Thus, this

theory argues that through a process of normalization through legalization, governments

redefined prostitution and sexual exploitation as “sex work,” a mode of employment for poor

women.148 For example, Thailand passed the Entertainment Places Act in 1966 which included a

policy called the Hired Wife Services that aided the employment of 800,000 prostitutes in

Thailand by the 1970s.149 Gradually, traffickers began flooding foreign women into Eastern Asia

eventually causing it to develop into an enormous industry.150

Weakness of Civil Society

         The last theory attributes the expansion of East Asia‟s sex industry to the weakness of its

civil society. In countries like the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Korea around the middle

of the 20th century, civil society was weak and undeveloped.151 Civil society, which encompasses

civic and social organizations and institutions like religious groups, professional associations,

citizen advocacy organizations, and labor unions, provides voice and power to different sectors

of society.152 For example, having a strong civil society gives women political and social

agency, without which they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. In the case of Eastern Asia,
       Brown, Sex Slaves,9.
       Mirkinson, “Red Light.”
       Hughes, “The Demand,” 3.
       Mirkinson, “Red Light.”
       Hughes, “The Demand,” 3.
       “What is Civil Society.” Civil Society International, 2003. Article on-line. Available
                                       Sex in the Company of Soldiers 42

a strong civil society would have held governments accountable for both tolerating and

legalizing prostitution. However, having a weak and corrupt civil society, governments were able

to both passively and actively contribute to the demand for sex trafficking victims and likewise

the expansion of the sex industry.153

Role of Military Occupation

        The roles played by these infrastructural factors do not invalidate the impact of Japanese

and American military occupation. On the contrary, factors like patriarchy, poverty, and civil

society have operated alongside Japan‟s imperial army and U.S. military to launch the expansion

of Eastern Asia‟s sex industry. For instance, in the intricate environment of global power

relations, patriarchy and military go hand in hand.154 The concept of patriarchy reinforces and

upholds “male power hierarchies” in the military structure.155 Along the same lines, both

patriarchy and military emphasize power and authority of men over women and contend that

men have access to women‟s bodies because of this power.156 In regards to the second theory,

while sex tourism cultivated out of poverty it also developed in response to a new clientele that

substituted the previous demand of military personnel. For example, the following excerpt

confirms that the military initiated the sex industry as evidenced by the explained transition from

the military as consumer to the tourist as consumer.

        The sex business, in unofficial partnership with the tourist industry and the government, decided to
        diversify and to attract a new type of client. Tourists would replace military personnel. Consumers were
        sought from developed nations of the west and also from Japan. These consumers provided the third
        stimulus to the industry.157

Lastly, the weakness of civil society enabled both Japan and U.S. military personnel to

institutionalize prostitution and exploit the bodies of local women. For example, as previously
      Hughes, “The Demand,” 2.
      Lie, “The State as Pimp,” 254.
      Mendoza, “Freeing the…,” 249.
      Brown, Sex Slaves,9.
                                      Sex in the Company of Soldiers 43

discussed, Korean and Filipino public agents permitted and sometimes aided the trafficking of

local women for both Japan‟s army and U.S. military. Like so, a weak civil society worked in

tandem with military prostitution in constructing East Asia‟s prevailing sex industry.


         Although complex in nature, the military‟s historical role in the creation, development,

and expansion of Eastern Asia‟s sex industry is certain. Eastern Asia is one of the first areas in

the world where prostitution and sex trafficking expanded through militarization. Not only did

this take place in Korea and the Philippines, but Vietnam and Thailand as well during the

Vietnam War with the creation of rest and relaxation centers.158 From this time, the Eastern

Asian sex industry has continued to thrive. In 1993, sex tourism accounted for $5 billion a year

in Thailand alone. It has continued to grow exponentially.159 Between 1988 and 1992, an

estimated 286,000 Filipinas and 50,000 Thai women were trafficked to Japan‟s sex industry.160

Korea is currently one of the top destinations for Filipino entertainers.161 An additional 200,000

Thai women presently work in brothels throughout the EU and an estimated 50,000 Filipinas are

living in the U.S. as mail order brides.162

         Even within the past decade, unprecedented advancements in technology and

globalization have introduced not only a new type of client, “the tourist” but also a new era of

evolution for the global sex industry. For example, due to the advent of the internet, sex

trafficking networks have vastly expanded. This era of globalization has ultimately propelled the

       Bertone, Andrea Marie. “Sexual Trafficking in Women: International Political Economy and the Politics of
Sex.” Gender Issues, 2000, 9.
       Petras, James and Tienchai Wongchaisuwan. “Free Markets, AIDS and Child Prostitution.” Economic and
Political Weekly, 13 Mar 1993, 440-442. Article on-line. Available from, 440.
       Bertone, “Sexual Trafficking,” 9.
       Enriquez, “Filipinas…”
       Bertone, “Sexual Trafficking,” 12, and Mirkinson, “Red Light.”
                                           Sex in the Company of Soldiers 44

sex industry forward in an unprecedented manner. Yet hope survives and the international

community (IC) remains optimistic. Organizations like the United Nations Development Fund

for Women (UNIFEM) and the International Organization for Migration (IMO) create strategies

for governments, NGOs, and the IC to combat and eliminate trafficking in women and children

for sex.163 Nonetheless, above anything it is important to remember that sex trafficking is a form

of slavery and slavery has time and time again proven to be an unsuccessful method of economic

service. Not only does sex slavery not provide an economic gain equal to that of large-scale

production, but women‟s bodies are in essence nonrenewable resources.164 Accordingly, if

Eastern Asian economies continue to grow decreasing the gap between rich and poor, their

presently abundant and nonrenewable resource, women, may eventually dry up.

      Bertone, “Sexual Trafficking,” 13.
      Ibid., 12