The lawsuit alleges that, since 1957, poor and undereducated South Korean women were pressured into prostitution in those government-designated zones around American military bases. Authorities should be legally held responsible because they turned a blind eye and therefore promoted the trade, according to the filing.
Former prostitutes say that the government rounded up bar workers — some of whom were girls in their mid-teens — and mandated that they undergo forced STD testing. The ones who tested positive for diseases were held against their will in quarantine and treatment centers, say the plaintiffs. “It was terrible. And we believe that the government was responsible for its negligence,” said Kim, the former sex worker, who was tested multiple times.
The government also sponsored etiquette and English-language classes for these hostesses, where they were praised for contributing to economic development and national security.
Scholars say the South Korean government, run by three dictators from the 1960s to 1980s, sought to please the US military out of fear that it would depart, while bringing in US dollars to buttress this struggling economy. In the past, the South Korean government has denied encouraging prostitution. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family would not comment on the litigation.