Heart Aching Confessions of Turning to Prostitution for Survival (Video)
The question, ‘Why did you become a prostitute?’ may be an obvious and important one for those who associate personality with prostitution. But for these women, it’s not. Their answer is simply, ‘I had no money.’ As the closure of ‘Yongjugol’ a prostitution hub in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, was decided and part of the buildings were forcibly destroyed, the women involved in prostitution appealed for a slowdown.
Recently, a story of women from Yongjugol the last prostitution hub in the metropolitan area was uploaded on the YouTube channel ‘Cereal,’ which has about 350,000 subscribers.
According to the channel, there are currently about 85 sex workers and 50 businesses left in Yongjugol. The age of the sex workers ranges from the late 30s to 40s.
Ms. A a sex worker who came to Yongjugol at the age of 27 said, “My father’s business was struggling when I was in high school so I didn’t plan to go to college, but my father insisted that I go. I had to take out student loans there. After I graduated, I found that my student loan debt had piled up tremendously.”
She confessed “I worked hard during the time, not going out on weekends, not meeting friends. I felt like I was living diligently but my life didn’t improve. I just wished I didn’t have any debt. So I decided to work in Yongjugol for about five years and made money.”
Despite going out and learning various jobs, the shackles of poverty were not easily broken.
Ms. A revealed, “My father was diagnosed with cancer and I thought it would be over once he had surgery, but the treatment period extended and our expenses gradually ran out and I was scared. I came back here with the thought of making money.”
Ms. B who was a regular housewife explained her reason for stepping into Yongjugol, “I doubted whether I could feed, put to bed, and dress my children while paying off the debt that I had accumulated while living with my husband.”
She said “Prostitution was the last resort for me. You see on TV, there are cases of stealing baby formula. This was the place that allowed me to live without doing such things,” adding, “Under capitalism, I had no choice but to survive even if it meant selling sex…” as she shook her head.
What does ‘work’ look like to them?
Ms. A said, “At first, it was very scary. I felt like I was hitting rock bottom in my life.” She added, “From the perspective of ordinary people, I’m not normal, I’m a woman who sells her body, right?” She continued, “When people do something, they feel a sense of accomplishment or pride, right? But here, it seems like there’s none of that. There’s a bit of bitterness, I guess.”
Regarding the closure of Yongjugol Ms. A said, “One day they suddenly said they would close down, so we’ve been living on the run for the past year. The workers forcibly came in and tore down the door of my house just like the illegal demolitions I used to see on TV.”
Paju City announced an ordinance to provide a maximum of 40 million won (approximately $34,000) in support funds over two years for the self-support training of sex workers.
In response, Ms. B said, “When they hear this, some people think we’re protesting to get more support money, but we’re saying that the support money is not important. We’re saying that we don’t need to use Paju City’s money, we can stand on our own, we’re asking for time to be able to stand on our own.”
She conveyed, “The girls here don’t just work, they all think about when they can live a normal life or when they can live the same life as others. In my case, I think I can live a normal life if I stay here for about two more years. I live thinking that I can live a normal life with my children just like any other family.”
Ms. B lamented, “The girls here couldn’t live a normal life in their abnormal homes, so they came here and are living like it’s their own home. The closure of Yongjugol makes them think again, ‘I’m a person who can’t live properly,’ ‘I’m a person who can’t live a normal life anywhere.'”
By. Jun Young Ahn