Debt Drives Man to Murder and Arson

October 21st, 2008 · Accidents, Crimes and Scandals · 8 comments

CNN reports that a man in Seoul killed five people this morning by stabbing and killed another by setting fire to the goshiwon they were all living in. Sometimes it seems in Korea that crimes like this are always committed by a man who can’t handle the stress of financial insolvency:

The suspect, arrested at the scene, told police he did not want to live because “everybody looks down on me,” Kim Kap-shik, chief detective at Seoul’s Gangnam Police Station, told reporters.

Of course, he also had a lengthy criminal record and history of mental instability and couldn’t even find a way to scrape up the 200,000 won (or less) to pay his rent each month, so draw your own conclusions.

There’s more at the Korea Times.

Update: The Chosun Ilbo has managed to get some grisly photos of the crime scene.

Korean Journalist on “China Phobia, Japan Mania”

October 16th, 2008 · Japan, Politics, Society · 2 comments

The Hankyoreh 21 recently had a few of its writers offer some thoughts on Korean news. Here are the three (our of five) most interesting responses. The other two were about an environmental conference and the poll results of who won the Biden-Palin vice presidential debate in the US.

On the left, China, on the right, Japan. The Korean peninsula in the middle. When right-wing Japan gets us in textbooks, left-wing China gets us with food. Koreans get hurt by melanine and melamine and divided again. Our hearts are anti-Japan, our wallets pro-Japan. Melamaine is found in domestic brand powdered milk, so powdered milk imported from Japan gets popular. Of course right now not many people are brave enough to put Chinese-made products in their shopping carts. But we can’t trust the stuff from New Zealand either…. The clean country of cows and goats, New Zealand, had melamine in its milk too, so there is no country we can trust anymore. When the names of the companies that imported the melamine-tainted milk were announced, Korean mothers suddenly became much more favorable to Japan. The melamine scandal has intensified “China phobia” and increased “Japan mania”. When will people realize how the “rich get richer, poor get poorer” world is hurting our society? — Shin Yundongok

On the afternoon of October 1st in Gangnam a street ceremony was held for Military Day. One newspaper witnessed the scene like this. “Unfolding with the Gangnam buildings as its backdrop, today’s celebration saw our military’s most advanced weapons, the sight of which sent citizens into raucous cheers and applause.” If you look at President Lee Myung-bak’s tax-cutting policies and goal of becoming a strong, wealthy nation, the current government compares unfavorably even if you call it “Gangnam government”. This is the first street celebration of Military Day, and that appears to be no coincidence. How will those Gangnam citizens going wild for weaponry rather than shuddering at higher taxes react to the plan to tax homes according to size? They will buy bigger and more expensive homes. And homeless people unable to work will be exempt from taxes! – Choi Seong-jin

On October 2nd the ruling and opposition parties in the National Assembly sent delegations to the Blue House to discuss the investigation of the “baby carriage moms” (유모차 엄마). President Lee Myung-bak said of the contention of the Democratic Party that the investigation is not for the 21st century that, “we are not aiming to punish them (the baby carriage moms), we just don’t want them to bring their babies out.” He means that at first the moms will not be punished, simply admonished to take better care, but police have recently been investigating their husband’s offices and warning them not to bring their babies to protests. – Choi Seong-jin

The “baby carriage moms” is the nickname for mothers who bring their babies out to political protests to essentially use them as human shields so the riot police stay away. Of course, it doesn’t always work.

OhMyNews put together a somewhat lengthy article (in Korean) on the baby carriage mother phenomenon.

Foreign Basketballers Get Oriented

October 15th, 2008 · Foreigners, Sports · 3 comments

Just like teachers in EPIK and everywhere else, new players in the Korea Basketball League learned about kimchi, hanbok, and everything else taught in every Korean orientation ever.

The KBL plans to hold an orientation for foreign players ahead of the regular season.

On the 13th at the five-story Gangnam gymnasium owned by the KBL, 20 foreign players will go through orientation before the opening of the regular season on the 31st.

For players who may be feeling a sense of alienation from being in a foreign land, the orientation will introduce them to Korean culture and offer programs to help them adjust to the KBL and Korean life.

Above: Cowering in fear will never prevent a ddongchim.

Face (and more) of the Day

October 13th, 2008 · Photos · 5 comments

Here we see participants in the 2008 Gangnam Dance Festival, held on the 12th. “Through Dance the World Becomes One” sez the Chosun Ilbo.

A City of Cookies

October 11th, 2008 · Photos · 3 comments

A Chinese art piece called “Eating the City” is currently on display at the Hyundai Department Store in Gangnam.

Better get there before Fatman Seoul does.

Better get there before Fatman Seoul does.

Transgender Prostitute Busted in Seoul

September 30th, 2008 · Accidents, Crimes and Scandals · 7 comments

And the Chosun Ilbo keeps you informed, though the reporter seems confused about the difference between a transsexual and a transvestite. (And hasn’t that happened to us all?)

On the 18th the Suseo Police Department in Seoul arrested without detention 32-year old crossdresser Mr. Hong on charges of taking money from hundreds of men and engaging in sexual relations with them after advertising his services on the internet.

10 years ago Mr. Hong underwent breast surgery after anguishing since childhood over his sexual identity. Through additional nose and eye surgeries he was made to look like a woman. Only his genitals were untouched by the knife.

After that process he became a 50-kilogram, 168-centimeter “shemale” with a sexy body. Shemales are people who were born as men but have had sex-change operations on their chests and so on. After being a shemale he continued to receive female hormone injections.

Police who saw his wavy, chest-length hair, ample breasts, large eyes, and high nose said, “when we first apprehended him we thought he was a woman. Other than a slightly husky voice he appeared to be a perfect woman.”

Jobless, in 2005 Mr. Hong took work in a bar in Sinchon near the Hongdae area in Seoul. This bar was a gathering place for transgenders. He would chat with customers and sometimes and go for a second round with them elsewhere, exchanging sex for cash.

Since October of 2005 Mr. Hong has been involved in prostitution. He placed an advertisement seeking a part-time lover on website P, which is made for that purpose. Though not seeking prostitution, the ad went into considerable detail.

There was considerable interest. From then until May of this year hundreds of men saw the ad and contacted him. Mr. Hong would send them a message with the address of his blog where they could see pictures of him. There were photos of him wearing miniskirts and tight jeans.

On his blog he wrote that he charged 200,000 won for two hours and 300,000 won for four hours. He met the men in a studio apartment in Gangnam to have sex.

Mr. Hong made clear that he was a “shemale” but 340 men still had sex with him. They came from diverse occupations. They ranged in age from those in their 20s to 50s and were doctors, businessmen, hagwon owners, real estate agents, college students, office workers, security guards, and television freelancers.

Mr. Hong kept a thorough customer management system. On his cell phone he recorded detailed information on his customers: telephone number, website through which they met, occupation, physical characteristics, and sexual orientation. For example, “website P, lecturer in Daechi-dong, (celebrity) Lee Jeong-jae look-alike, hairy chest”.

He also kept records of what aroused them and would occasionally send them text messages saying, “I wanna see you. Come and play with me”.

Of the 340 who had sex with Mr. Hong police have caught 34, one of whom, an executive at an IT company who had sex with Mr. Hong five times, confessed, “I met because I was interested in him.”

He once wanted to break off relations with Mr. Hong, who had confirmed his identity through newspapers and threatened to tell his family about their relationship. The executive then contacted the police. Police have arrested Mr. Hong and are seeking for questioning 306 men who had sex with him.

Jangan-dong Pimps: “We Hate Renters’ Associations”

September 15th, 2008 · Accidents, Crimes and Scandals · 10 comments

For a few weeks police in Dongdaemun have been cracking down on prostitution in a neighborhood called Jangan-dong, and the pimps there are threatening to make public a list of cops who they say took bribes in the form of cash and sexual favors.

The Joongang Ilbo recently took a look at how the affair got started in July.

Last July, when police superintendant Lee Jong-gu moved to the Dongdaemun Police Department, the fathers and daughters committee in the S·H apartments in Jangan-dong requested an interview. A few days later, after Mr. Lee had moved into his new post with the women and teenagers division, a crackdown began against prostitution in Jangan-dong. On the 7th there were over 600 comments of support left on the message board of the Dongdaemun police’s website. A representative of the fathers and daughters committee at the H apartments said, “the people in this building wrote the comments to support the police in what they’re doing.”  The businesses are pushing back by saying they will “release the names of police who took sexual bribes,” but Mr. Lee said, “this is what the people want,” and the crackdown continues.

In July and August of last year the residents of the S apartments in Jangan-dong demonstrated outside the offices of local representative Hong Jun-pyo, a member of the Grand National Party. They demanded an end to prostitution. They said that, “it makes for a bad educational environment” and “violates our property rights by lowering home values”. Over 50 people attended the demonstrations, held two to three times a week. The demonstrations affected the 18th national elections. Representative Hong promised the destruction of prostitution in Jangan-dong. Democratic Party candidate Min Byeong-du made the same public promise.

“The power of apartment communities” has lent strength to the police effort. Some apartments in Jangan-dong have been doing so for the last five years. Starting with the 2,182 households of the H apartments in 2003 and continuing with the 1,786 households of the S apartments in 2005, today over 6,000 households in Jangan 2-dong and 3-dong have joined the call.

71-year old Mrs. Jang, resident of a nearby apartment building, purchased a 42-pyeong (138.8㎡) apartment six years ago. The building is near a row of prostitution businesses. But the value of her apartment is the same as it was six years ago. 60-year old Mr. Jeong, operator of a local brokerage business, said, “when people who want to buy an apartment see a lot of anma massage parlors on a big street, they just leave and don’t even look at the home.”

One resident of the H apartments pointed out, “with the Special Law on Prostitution passed in September 2004 the pimps pushed out of Cheongryangri 588 came to this neighborhood. It’s the balloon effect, you push it one side and it goes to another.”

Jeon Jeong-geun, head of citizen services in representative Hong’s office, said, “the citizens of Jangan-dong have been calling loudly for the elimination of local prostitution. Even though they live in the same neighborhood, they have systematically complained about the educational environment and home values.” One operator of an anma parlor in Jangan-dong sighed and said, “even though enforcement is not heavy in business districts like Yeongdeungpo and Gangnam, there’s nothing to say, this place has a different atmosphere made by the apartment organizations.”

Nice to see a community come together to make its neighborhood a more livable place.

Another Vital Expose of Korean Prostitution

September 2nd, 2008 · Accidents, Crimes and Scandals, Society · 9 comments

A writer for the Sports Seoul recently wrote an overview of prostitution in South Korea today, touching on a couple of unusual businesses which have gained in popularity since the police began running redlight districts out of business four years ago.

City downtowns are fatigued from an overflowing number of immoral businesses. At night these businesses shoot up like mushrooms in the rain, openly advertising themselves in bright neon, mocking the police. It is public knowledge that these show bars, ddeok bars, fetish clubs, doll rooms and more engage in prostitution or similar acts. Even after the passage of the Special Law on Prostitution they only grew in scope and continued to buy and sell sex. And it doesn’t only happen at these immoral places in the hearts of cities. Internet sites allow people to arrange trysts with so-called vicarious lovers and prostitution also occurs through internet chatting. This kind of prostitution is difficult for police to uncover, so sex continues to be bought and sold across the cyber world. On a summer night I went into one of these city-dirtying businesses.

In a hot summer in the city the nights are even hotter than the days, because these businesses compete hotely to draw in customers out looking for vice.

The one thing they all have is “rooms”. Sometime in the past they all started putting the word “bang” (room) at the end of their names.

One which is said to exist only in our country is the daeddalbang. These are designed to avoid the reach of the Special Law on Prostitution. There are two kinds. The first one has female students perform sex acts and the other has customers perform them themselves.

These rooms begin to grow up more than four years ago when police enforcement was weaker, and frequently advertise themselves on shady flyers as sports massage centers or men’s relaxation rooms.

There is controversy over their legality. On November 29, 2005, the Suwon Supreme Court ruled them to be legal. The law against prostitution, the Court said, defines prostitution as “sexual or similar acts performed for profit with unspecified people,” but the point of dispute is just what a sexual act is. By the court’s definition of “using the body, including the mouth or anus, or an instrument,” they would appear to be engaged in prostitution, but in the next breath the court declared them legal, saying, “in daeddalbangs the server does not engage in sex acts or in oral or anal sex… an important point is that the person leading the activities is not the customer but the server… and also that there is no chance that in the course of those activities there is any danger that sexual relations will occur.”

But more recently courts have begun treating them as criminal acts, making it impossible for them to act with impunity.

Also recently stepping into the spotlight are “show rooms” (쇼방). Also known as show bars, here the women dance on a stage while wearing numbers, and men drinking at the bar or at tables select them by number, after which they move to a bedroom together and have sex. It’s also becoming popular to call them “ddeok bars”.

In June a party at a show bar in Gangnam was discovered to have over 500 people on the guest list — lawyers, businessmen and other professionals.

Doll rooms” are still as strong as ever. At a doll room men enter a room with a life-size doll and have sex with it. Doll rooms have their origins in Japan, where they put up signs saying “Sex Doll Love Hotel” and allow men to have sex with realistic dolls rather than prostitutes, and can choose the face, body type, and hair color they prefer. A number of men seek them out for their low price compared with live women and the impossibility of running afoul of the law.

There is another kind of “room” responsible for such businesses in city downtowns — the 보도방, which links the businesses to the women. They take introduction fees from the businesses and service fees from the prostitutes, acting as middlemen.

In the old days 보도방s would run women to room salons and 단란주점s, but these days they aim at prostitution. Because of this they send women to barbershops, of course, and phone rooms, 화상방s, outcall massages, and to be doumi (“helper”) girls in noraebangs.

Most of them women who do this are in their twenties or thirties. There is a not-inconsiderable number of housewives, office workers, and students. Most of them have gone into this kind of work to support their cost of living after getting into financial difficulty or credit card debt in part-time jobs, and got involved in prostitution through 보도방s. 보도방s would certainly not exist were it not for the prostitution markets in every city.

These days they are even getting demand for male doumis. On August 13th tens of men including college students were arrested for working as doumis in disreputable businesses.

The women and teens division of the Daegu Metropolitan Police agency (대구지방경찰청) arrested a 24-year old Mr. Kim for hiring male servers and bringing them into prostitution. A 22-year old Mr. Park was among six men arrested for acting as doumis, and 42-year old Mr. Jang was among eight noraebang owners arrested.

According to police the 보도방 owner Mr. Kim hired the men, some of whom were college students, paying them 30,000 won per hour to drink with and entertain his customers. And if chosen for sex by those customers they were to be paid 200,000 won per instance.

At businesses like that it is easy to hire women and a snap for women to get such jobs, and if you have to choose one business to represent night culture it would be them.

Immoral businesses are not found only in downtowns. There are many women who look for men who want to choose them without going anywhere.

They mainly seek out men looking to by sex through the internet. One route is the “roleplaying love” website (애인대행사이트). It’s fairly well-known that these sites allow people to hold an imaginary relationship, for pay, for several hours or several days and that prostitution follows. An increasing number of women want to make money from these sites, saturating the market.

They frequently meet with the men with promises of prostitution. Called “conditional meetings” (조건만남), they typically occur through internet chatting. Before they meet the men find the women whose looks and prices match their desires.

It’s becoming popular for these to be not one-time meetings but rather to include agreements of long-term sexual relationships and to be the woman’s sponsor through payments of considerable sums. These relationships are typically between female college students and affluent middle-aged men. If you go to areas of Gangnam with officetels you can hear rumors that these young women live in apartments rented by the middle-aged men and sometimes engage in secret trysts.

There are also sponsor cafes that take fees for connecting men with female college students. One worker at such a cafe said, “there are a lot female college students who want to buy brand-name goods and look for a sponsor but don’t want a long-term relationship, so they become ‘travelling doumis’ who accompany men on overseas business trips.”

Even if it’s not Louis Vitton bags they’re after, there still are plenty of college students doing it for their tuition and other school fees. According to research by the part-time jobs site “Arbei Heaven” (알바천국), half of all college students, facing high costs, have thought about doing illegal work. There are many kinds of “kiss arbei” from brothels to love by proxy.

29% said the biggest reason for falling into this line of work was tuition fees. 25% wanted more spending money. 24% said they wanted to make money quickly, and 23% said they had an urgent need for money.

For these various reasons are cities tainted with vice. For these reasons immoral business spring up like poisonous toadstools, with the Special Law on Prostitution effective only here and there.

One can’t avoid the criticism that the Special Law on Prostitution, enacted to stop prostitution and shield its victims, aiding them in achieving independence, is not enough to stop the culture that supports these businesses which can wriggle out from under the police.

And because of this these businesses even move into homes and apartments.

Today city streets are filled with immoral places. This is a time when more effective policies are needed.

Proposal to Extend Water Taxi from Jamsil to Ilsan

August 28th, 2008 · Transportation and Urban Design · 0 comments

This article takes a look at plans to extend the water taxi service further from Jamsil to Ilsan.

There is a proposal to run a water taxi from the Ilsan KINTEX (킨텍스) in Goyang City to Gangnam.

Goyang authorities have announced that a proposal to link a 12.4 km section of the Han River which starts in Ilsan Hallyuwood (일산 한류우드) and runs past the KINTEX and Hengju Fortress (행주산성) is feasible.

Authorities are optimistic that the water taxi service could pass Gangnam and extend as far as Jamsil if a natural floodgate is put in place at the proposed starting point – somewhere in the vicinity of Hengju Fortress – and safety issues are resolved.

If the plan becomes reality authorities have proposed the construction of 4 calling points at Hallyuwood, a second KINTEX exhibition centre, Janghang IC, and Hengju Fortress, as well as a waterside restaurant and park.

As well as the construction of a second exhibition centre at KINTEX and the development of supporting facilities, the local authorities are considering new traffic measures. The review has indicated that construction could start as early as this year.

There are currently 3 private enterprises running water taxis and water buses on the Han River in Seoul.

Officetel Prostitution Flourishing in Seoul

August 26th, 2008 · Accidents, Crimes and Scandals · 12 comments

Unintended effects from the Special Law on Prostitution continue to multiply. One Weekly Chosun writer decided to check out a new one for himself.

It is August 19th at 8 pm in officetel A near Seollung Station, on line 2 of the Seoul Subway. It is a mixed-use officetel just over 70 meters from Teheran Street. I’ve come here after calling a broker for “officetel prostitution” whose contact information I found on an adult website.

I arrived at the officetel and called the broker again. The broker said, “right now I only have two girls. One is 168 centimeters tall and size 55, the other is 160 centimeters and size 44, so choose one of them.”

After negotiations the broker said, “take the elevator to the 11th floor.” I arrived at the 11th floor and after giving my money to a woman who looked to be in about her mid-thirties she said, “go to room ○○”. All of the regular rooms on the 11th floor are residences. The room the broker sent me to was 59.5m² (18 pyeong), just a totally normal one-room apartment. There was a bed for two, desk, sofa, TV, refrigerator, and washing machine — and waiting for me, a woman in her twenties.

A new species of prostitution, “officetel prostitution”, is rapidly increasing at officetels in the downtown shopping and business districts of Seoul. Prostitution deals are flourishing in the offices and apartments of officetels near Gangnam Station and the Yeoksam, Seollung, Apgujeong, and Nonhyeon-dong neighborhoods north of the Han River. Johns learn about it through adult websites on the internet or through printed flyers. After the passage of the “Special Law on Prostitution” in 2004 the number of brothels in red-light districts declined, but prostitution has changed into more sophisticated, hidden forms.

Ms. Kang, the 25-year old I met at officetel A, said, “this room was rented by the ‘section chief’ [meaning the broker].  since I communicate with the section chief directly, I don’t know how many other girls there are.”

According to the police and prostitution workers, brokers specializing in officetel prostitution often have 40 to 50 girls working for them. But they always communicate “one on one”, so it is difficult to know for certain.

Officetel prostution is flourishing because customers can come and go as naturally as if it were their own apartment or office. Ms. Kang, the prostitute, said, “since they aren’t seen by strangers a lot of people come even during the day.”

In fact officetel prostition appears to be in boom times. At one famous adult internet site there are tens of ads from brokers for officetel prostitution. In one forum on the site, members can even make a reservation for the next day after looking at the women’s profiles.

On the 19th I called 12 brokers whose information I got from the site and all but one said, “please wait a moment while I check if there are reservations tomorrow night.” Then they would say, “call tomorrow” and hang up.

Police appear helpless to stop this form of prostitution. An investigator with the Gangnam Police Department said, “the brokers and the prostitutes have things arranged in a way that makes it difficult to uncover them. Officetels are set up with individual apartments and offices so we are not allowed to just to go opening doors even if it’s to investigate.”

This appears to be the physical result of the 2004 “Special Law on Prostitution”. At the time there were an estimated 1,696 red-light districts nationwide employing 5,717 women as prostitutes. After the passage of the Law, police cracked down so that in September of 2007 there were 995 red-light districts employing 2,508 prostitutes.  So compared to before the Law was passed, there are 700 fewer red-light districts and half as many women working in them. The famous red-light districts Seoul 588, Busan Wanweol-dong, and Daegu Jagalmadang have nearly vanished.

But the number of people arrested for prostitution continues to increase, from 12,737 in 2003 to 29,236 in 2007. Because of the Special Law and police crackdowns the number of red-light districts has decreased but hidden, unorthodox forms of prostitution are going on as before. This is the “balloon effect” of crackdowns on prostitution — push it here, it moves over there, and nothing really changes.

The citizens’ organization Support Center for Victims of Sex Trafficking (다시함께센터), which helps victims of prostitution to support themselves, said, “with the Special Law and strengthened enforcement by police, prostitution has changed from being located in buildings, as if it were a business, to moving around and relying on the internet. To deal with this new species of prostitution the communications law should be updated and increased investigations carried out on the internet.”