Officials have considered making areas known for prostitution, like this street known as “Hooker Hill” near Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, off-limits to troops.

Officials have considered making areas known for prostitution, like this street known as “Hooker Hill” near Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, off-limits to troops. (Jeremy Kirk / S&S)

PYONGTAEK, South Korea — Bar owners outside Camp Humphreys in South Korea have pledged for the first time in writing to keep prostitution and human trafficking out of their establishments, and to blow the whistle on those who don’t.

Memorandums of understanding were signed March 14 by Army Col. Michael J. Taliento Jr., commander of the Area III Support Activity at Camp Humphreys, and the heads of two associations representing local bar owners — the Korean Special Tourist Association and the Anjung-ni Entertainment Establishments Association.

The two associations represent a total of about 50 off-post establishments outside the post, Taliento said.

The Defense Department and U.S. Forces Korea forbid military members from involvement in prostitution and human trafficking, and the U.S. military’s recent efforts to counter it — including stepped-up military law-enforcement patrols of bar districts, accompanied by South Korean police — have been well-publicized.

But for the Army in the Pyongtaek region, the memorandums of understanding mark the first written agreements between Camp Humphreys and local bar owners on such matters, said Clarence F. Slawson, Taliento’s deputy.

They put the bar owners on record as committing themselves and their employees to shunning prostitution and human trafficking within their own merchant community.

And the agreements warn that Camp Humphreys authorities will place offending establishments off-limits to U.S. servicemembers, make periodic visits to bars to check compliance, investigate reports of the illicit activity, and contact South Korean police with information on prostitution and human trafficking, both of which are illegal in South Korea.

“This would be a sharing of information, of facts, that would help them enforce their own laws,” Taliento said.

The purpose of the agreements is to “solicit ... full and unmitigated support and cooperation” in curtailing “prostitution and human trafficking within our community,” according to the memorandums.

“By entering into this understanding,” the documents read, the parties give their “full and unqualified support to eliminating any and all illegal activities that contribute to an environment conducive to prostitution and human trafficking.”

The agreements also spell out enforcement measures.

The Area III Support Activity “reserves the right to make periodic inspection visits to ensure that” establishments are not engaging in any practices or activity “resembling or conducive to prostitution or human trafficking,” according to the memorandums.

Those making the inspections could include Army military police officers, “courtesy patrols,” and agents of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, Taliento said.

Businesses “known to engage in illegal activities that support or sanction prostitution and human trafficking” will be declared off-limits to U.S. military personnel by the Area III Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board, the documents say.

Taliento is looking to the associations’ leadership to investigate any allegations that may arise against member establishments.

“If I get a report that it’s happened, and we investigate it, I’m expecting them to investigate it as well,” he said.

But he’s also looking to soldiers to avoid actions that support prostitution or human trafficking, he said.

“This has to be a constant campaign of awareness and command presence, and I think it’s going to be successful. Because we are going back to the focus … that this is all part of the warrior ethos. This is all part of the Army values, and that we’re appealing to the individual soldiers’ dignity, their honor and personal respect, encouraging them to do the right thing, to say ‘No’ to prostitution and report it, not support it.”

The agreement

The bar owners agreed, among other provisions, to:

¶ Specifically identify “businesses that support, harbor or sanction prostitution or human trafficking.”

¶ Ban “limitations placed on” employees’ “personal freedoms.”

¶ Ban keeping of employees’ passports from them: “No employee shall have her passport seized or kept from her, but shall keep her passport in her own possession.”

¶ Ban coercing employees “into engaging in activities resembling prostitution.”

¶ Ban employees from “soliciting or propositioning patrons for sex.”

¶ Ban use of private rooms “for one-on-one services between employees and patrons.”

¶ Ban the paying of money “to obtain the company or companionship of an employee.” The payments are widely known as “bar fines” or “special fees.”

— Franklin Fisher

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