“Most of these hostesses regret starting the job,” Lee Jung-mi, the head of the Korean Shelter for Women, said. “They first thought they would make a lot of money by simply talking to male customers at bars or karaoke, serving drinks and singing for them. But the reality is they are forced to sell sex and they can’t say no due to money they have been loaned in advance.”
Bar owners are usually loan sharks, lending them money at ridiculously high interest rates, she said.
“These poor women will be taken hostage by this snowballing debt. All they can do is just work as slaves,” Lee said.
At the shelter, women who used to work as prostitutes prepare for a new life, but many more are still suffering from abusive treatment, she said.
How many hostesses?
According to Statistics Korea, one out of 60 economically-active women work in bars, clubs and karaoke rooms, or in red light districts.
Lee Na-young, a professor at the Department of Sociology of ChungAng University pointed out that women had few chances to be properly educated and get a decent job in the male-dominated society.
One of the biggest problems in the prostitution business is it’s almost impossible for women to earn any money to pay off their debts as most of it goes to pimps and bar owners, she added.
Lee also said that the roots of the thriving hostess culture are “… the legacy of the male-dominant and authoritarian eras,”
According to Statistics Korea there are 17,400,809 women between the ages of 15-64. 48.5% of these women are “economically active”. i.e. 8,439,392. 1 in 60 “economically-active women work in bars, clubs and karaoke rooms, or in red light districts”, approximately 140,000 women.
If only “economically active” women between 19 and 35 are counted, the figure is approximately 2,800,000 women. 140 000 divided by 2,800,000 produces a ratio of 1 in 20 economically-active women (between the ages of 19 and 35) work in bars, clubs and karaoke rooms, or in red light districts.
From 10 000 won an hour karaoke bars, to 50 000 won an hour room salons. Why Korea now has 50 000 won notes.
The current Korean regime has licenced 30,466 “drinking places with compliant female staff” as “room salons” at the end of 2009, up 2 percent from 29,857 in 2004. The number of regular karaoke bars declined nearly 13 percent from 18,030 to 15,700. Room salons, of course, charge higher prices than regular karaoke bars.
How this extra money flows to the female employees is a subject for mass debate in the pc-bangs of Korea. The upgrade to room salons from regular karaoke bars is also a contributor to the current regime’s problems in cracking down on inflation.