WASHINGTON, Sept. 24, 2015 – Korean women are often prostituted in massage parlors nationwide. While the practice is abhorrent, it appears to have some support in South Korea’s culture.
Maxim Korea, a men’s magazine distributed around the world, issued a cover photo of a South Korean male celebrity posing next to a car trunk. The photo featured a woman’s bound legs hanging out from the back of the trunk.
Maxim Korea explained the decision to highlight the photo with the caption “Bad Guy Bible” as follows:
The Bad Guy’s Bible, Maxim Korea meets Kim Byeon Gok, the Korean male celebrity who performed the worst villain in many Korean movies. Maxim Korea presents the worst crime scenes with Kim, such as kidnapping, murder, body dumping, and prison release. For front cover photo, Maxim Korea chose the kidnapper scene of Kim standing next to a female victim dumped in the back of the trunk. One of Maxim’s female Editor was posed as a kidnapped victim in the back of the trunk.
Maxim Korea also claimed that the cover photo of its September issue was intended to portray an authentically evil person.
The cover of the September issue include the quote (in Korean):
[People say], women like a bad guy; Let me show you how bad I can be. How do you like me now?
Maxim Korea’s September issue promotes violence against women to its male readers and suggests women like to be mistreated or even exploited. The celebrity becomes a role model, showing how a man should treat a woman, and portrays women as creatures with no voices, personalities, or positions.
The fact that Maxim Korea is comfortable presenting a photograph depicting violence against women on its cover suggests the objectification or dehumanization of women is at least tacitly accepted, if not embraced, by Korean society.
Commercial sexual exploitation is rampant in South Korea, which remains the only developed country that exports its vulnerable young women to Australia, U.S., Japan and Canada for prostitution. Despite their higher education, many young women enter into commercial sexual industry.
What’s worse, Korean men actively engage in supporting prostitution. In both South Korean and the U.S markets, the primary buyers of South Korean women in prostitution are Korean men.
The objectification of women in Korea is a part of the culture. It is a generally accepted practice in Korea for politicians and private sector CEOs to visit the commercial sexual industry like room salons to network and close important business deals.
Women in South Korea face difficult challenges to equality. Although South Korea has the 13th largest economy in the world, and it elected the first female president in its current administration, women in South Korea as a whole remain marginalized. Earnings power is one indication of the disparity. In 2006, women’s wages were about 66.5 percent of men’s wages.
While 48 percent of Korea’s GDP is dependent on large corporations such as Samsung, LG or Hyundai, most young girls have little chance to work for these companies, let alone remain employed when they are older. Most women in their mid-30s are relegated to the service industry, construction, manufacturing or agriculture. They are also subject to restrictive labor contracts and are denied basic labor rights.
A culture where violence against women is embraced or unchallenged in a meaningful way leaves women with little or no option but to enter prostitution to make meaningful wages.
Maxim Korea’s September issue exposes a glimpse of the way young women are treated by male buyers of prostitutes. What’s worse, the September issue is an endorsement of objectification of young South Korean women.
Unless we fight South Korea authority and step up for their rights, we will not end sex trafficking of South Korean women around the world.