“Women in prostitution have a silent language. Their words will surface no matter what. The prelude has already started in their protest against excessive police crack down, and their resistance will not be limited to a specific area but spread throughout our lives.”
Hansori Society (representatives Lee Ok Jeong and Yoo Young Nim), awarded the KWAU’s <Woman Activist of the Year Award> made a proposition instead of an acceptance speech, calling on society to “read the lives of women in prostitution.”
Hansori society (meaning ‘aggrieved voice’ and ‘one voice’), which started out in 1986 as an alliance between individuals and groups to provide counseling and medical care to prostitutes, is carrying out joint activities with participation from 13 groups including Saewoomtuh, Durehbang and the House of Magdalena. Hansori Society is a very small group, but it has been faithfully lending its ear to the voices of prostitutes, the victims who have been thoroughly marginalized in the unshakable prostitution market and the so-called rationale supporting it. The group has been the engine behind vocalizing the prostitutes’ grievances.
“With two mishaps in the same district of Gunsan, everyone seems to be acting apologetic. Ministers sending flowers, congressmen and mayors visiting the funeral parlor… It seems women’s human rights can only be advanced by death. After a dearth of interest, women groups and public opinion are finally pushing for the legislation of anti-prostitution laws, all thanks to the sacrifice of the prostitutes themselves. We only hope that their deaths will not have been in vain.” (Kim Mi Ryeong, Secretary-General of Hansori Society)
But the path towards the passage of anti-prostitution laws seems long and tedious, and agencies and groups, not to mention the government, have yet to get the full picture of the situation of prostitution in Korea. It takes hours to explain to a policeman taking the brothel keeper’s side that “the law stipulates that debts incurred through prostitution are invalid,” and there is a severe shortage of shelters for prostitutes who pluck the courage to ask for help.
The biggest obstacle of all is the sex culture of men. Hansori Society volunteers point to the hypocritical and violent sexual attitude of men, who “stand united when it comes to the issue of prostitution regardless of their social status, religion or philosophy.” Despite the grievous deaths of prostitutes and first-hand accounts by women who barely managed to repay their debts and escape lives of slavery, the deplorable fact still remains that countless on-line communities touting prostitution continue to sprout, with no one feeling any guilt over it.
“The situation seems hopeless and desperate, but we still must not give up.” In order to adjust to the lifestyles of the prostitutes they are helping, Hansori Society members have to report for work at night and dawn. These dedicated activists say that “deep inside the women lies a great strength that matches their fury.” “To find the strength to comfort yourselves, to sing your heart’s song left unsung, please come to us, for our tears have yet to dry.”