The Hankyoreh
In Mongolia, sex tourism by S. Korean males leads to anti-Korean sentiment
With Korean men contributing to growth of industry, the damage to Korea’s image has increased
» In the photo on the left, Korean tourists enter a karaoke bar in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, on June 18. On the right, another karaoke bar in the Mongolian capital has put the Korean national flag on its signboard. The number of Korean men traveling to Mongolia as sex tourists has continued to increase, resulting in a corresponding rise in anti-Korean sentiment.

South Koreans’ sex tourism to Mongolia remains widespread. According to an investigative report by The Hankyoreh, Mongolians accused South Korean tourists of spawning a culture of buying sex in their country. In 2002, a South Korean opened the first karaoke bar in Mongolia’s capital city of Ulan Bator and most karaoke bars in Mongolia are owned by South Koreans. The number of karaoke bars in Mongolia has increased to include some 50 bars.

A 35-year-old South Korean businessman, who is only identified by the surname Park and lives in Mongolia, told The Hankyoreh, “When men visit, their purpose is obvious, so the number of bars has increased significantly.”

A Mongolian tour guide, identified only as Matha, said, “Regardless of age, more than 70 percent of male tourists on group tours buy sex.” The tour guide showed a list of business cards that he had received from South Korean tourists, who included a manager of a well-known securities company and a local government official.

Some South Korean nationals who live in Mongolia say they have seen older men who have a 20-something local woman as a mistress. A female South Korean national in Mongolia, who is only identified by her surname Park, said, “Korean men here have the worst behavior. For instance, a 70-something (Korean) man had a Mongolian woman as a mistress. When she got pregnant, he abandoned her and ran away.”

The South Korean embassy in Mongolia said, “Sex tourism is undermining the image of South Korea and its people.” At the end of 2007, there were some 3,000 South Korean nationals in Mongolia. Last year, the number of South Korean tourists to Mongolia stood at some 40,000 people.

With the practice remaining widespread, the Mongolian government stepped up its crackdown on sex tourism by passing new anti-prostitution laws last year. However, the effect was nothing more than a reduction in a few number of karaoke bars.

Perhaps even worse is there are signs that the crackdown has had an adverse effect on the industry. To avoid the crackdown, prostitution has spread to horseback-riding schools, massage parlours and others. An official at a Mongolian horseback-riding school, which is only identified by the letter “G” and is located an hour’s drive from the city center, said, “When (men who are here as sex tourists) arrive at the airport, they are escorted here. Local women arrive here in a different van. When they move off to the grassland, (the women) are accompanied by the men.”

The increase in sex tourism by South Korean male visitors has been a source of rising anti-Korean sentiment among Mongolians, according to South Korean nationals in the country. A 38-year-old South Korean national, who is only identified by the surname Lee and has lived in Mongolia for three years, said the number of assault cases against Korean people is on the rise.

A 42-year-old local tour guide, who is only identified as Temuchin, said, “Anti-Korean sentiment is high because (Korean men) buy sex from (local) women.”

With the recent emergence of a right-wing organization in Mongolia, the damage to Korean people is growing further.

Erden Birk, the head of the country’s biggest right-wing organization, Daiyar, said, “There have been cases in which four 60-something men spent time with one 20-something woman in a room until morning and others in which tourists go directly to an underground karaoke bar at their hotel as soon as they arrive from the airport, without even unpacking their baggage. If these things continue to happen, it will be difficult to stop the violence.”

Last year, South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family revised a passport law and the government is now allowed to ban

people who have been arrested for buying sex from being issued new passports or passport renewals. However, the effect of the ban has so far been negligible. Bae Lim Sook-il, the head of the Incheon Women’s Hotline, said, “Prostitution (in South Korea) isn’t even being punished properly. So the government can’t punish people for soliciting prostitution in foreign countries.”

Lee Na-young, a sociology professor at ChungAng University, said, “The mindset and culture of Korean males, which view females as objects of entertainment, needs to be fundamentally changed.”

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Posted on : Jul.15,2008 13:34 KST
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