Examination of S. Korean nightclub workers' health records stirs debate
November 28, 2004
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Area I nightclub workers are angry that the 2nd Infantry Division continues to examine their health records — including AIDS tests results — a practice they say runs counter to the Army’s campaign against human trafficking and prostitution.
Earlier this month, 2nd ID officials conducted health inspections of nightclub workers in Tongduchon, the city where the largest 2nd ID facilities in Area I — Camp Casey and Camp Hovey — are located.
A 2nd ID memo to nightclub owners states the inspections involved the division’s Preventative Medicine Office and the Tongduchon Health Department.
“All clubs will have all entertainers and club employees present during the inspection. Entertainers will have their passports, alien cards and health records present for verification of identity.
“Since entertainers are in close proximity to soldiers it is imperative that they can demonstrate that they are free of any communicable diseases,” the memo states.
One nightclub worker who passed the memo to Stars and Stripes and claims she was forced into prostitution after being lured to South Korea by the promise of an entertainment industry job, said health inspections give the impression the Army is involved in management of prostitution in Area I, despite a high-profile anti-vice campaign this year.
“They shouldn’t be having these health inspections. If there is no prostitution, they wouldn’t need the inspections,” she said.
However, 2nd ID spokesman Maj. Mike Lawhorn said the health checks do not amount to management of prostitution by the Army.
“We are absolutely not involved in the management of this. It is extremely important to the command, that everybody understands at all levels, that the division is absolutely committed to this zero-tolerance culture for activities that support human trafficking and prostitution. We are not tolerating anything that supports that,” he said.
The health inspections had nothing to do with human trafficking or prostitution, he said.
“They are about enforcing health and safety standards for our soldiers. We have made it very clear to the club owners and we are continuing to make clear to them our stance on human trafficking and prostitution,” he said.
Members of the Korean Special Tourists Association (KSTA), an umbrella organization for nightclub owners serving U.S. soldiers in Area I, understand the Army’s concerns, he added.
“They want to run clean, profitable clubs to the benefit of everyone. It is to everyone’s benefit that the health and safety rules and the laws of Korea are adhered to,” Lawhorn said.
Clubs that break the rules will be declared off-limits, he said.
“It is not going to be worth it to break Korean law or violate the standards of the KSTA,” Lawhorn said.
Recent health inspections of Area I nightclub workers were the same as those carried out at all South Korean nightclubs and were done by Gyeonggi Province officials with military personnel present, Lawhorn said.
The health exams, which foreign entertainers must complete every three months, include a biannual AIDS test. Tests for other sexually transmitted diseases are optional, Lawhorn said.
Father Glen Jarron of the Filipino Catholic Center in Seoul said the Army’s health checks were of less concern than the South Korean government’s requirement that entertainers undergo AIDS tests. Jarron has worked extensively with Filipinos trafficked to South Korea.
“Why should they require entertainers to have an AIDS test and not require ordinary factory workers? That is tantamount to saying that the girls are not really going into that kind of work,” he said.
The real problem was not health checks or AIDS tests, he added.
“It is about ending the idea that they [Filipina nightclub workers] are still being used by American GIs or other foreigners,” he said.