South Korean ‘juicy bar’ owners hear Army's concerns

By JON RABIROFF | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 6, 2010

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DONGDUCHEON, South Korea — U.S. Army officials told Camp Casey-area bar owners Thursday that prostitution and human trafficking continue to be problems here, with two local establishments recently put off limits to servicemembers.

In addition, Area I representatives warned that serious gang-related issues could occur if bar owners don’t do a better job of controlling the size of the crowds and the music that is played in their clubs.

“There have been no serious incidents yet, but the potential is there,” said Watson Wallace Jr., Area I civilian misconduct action specialist. “It’s going to happen.”

About 25 members of the Korea Special Tourist Association attended Thursday’s quarterly meeting in Dongducheon with Area I military officials to discuss ongoing concerns. The association is made up primarily of owners of “juicy bars” in The Ville, an entertainment district near the front gate of Camp Casey.

Before the meeting started, the KSTA — through Army officials — directed that a Stars and Stripes reporter be barred from covering the event.

The association dropped its request at the suggestion of Area I officials after the reporter refused to leave, and Army officials said they were not going to escort him from the meeting hall.

In recent months, Stars and Stripes has reported on how prostitution is a problem at juicy bars in The Ville and other entertainment districts near U.S. Army bases in South Korea.

The women who work in such establishments flirt with servicemembers to get them to buy the women expensive juice drinks for their continued company. The women are often forced to prostitute themselves to make up the difference when they fail to meet sale quotas set by their employers.

Most of the women who work in the juicy bars of South Korea are Filipinas. The Philippine government has become so upset with their treatment in the juicy bar industry here that it has stopped approving proposed contracts that would allow them to work in base-area clubs.

Philippine officials are considering taking additional measures aimed at promoters who circumvent immigration regulations and illegally recruit Filipinas to work in South Korean juicy bars.

U.S. Forces Korea officials said Thursday they were still working on a response to the question of whether the extreme measures being taken by the Philippine government might prompt any change in USFK policy toward juicy bars.

At present, the U.S. military will put off limits those bars found to be involved in prostitution and human trafficking. Along with the two off-limits bars near Camp Casey, four bars in the vicinity of Osan Air Base are being considered for off-limits status if owners do not resolve problems.

USFK, however, has so far stopped short of categorically putting all juicy bars off limits, as it does with South Korea’s “glass houses,” in which prostitutes are put on display in storefronts to lure in customers.

At the KSTA meeting, Wallace told bar owners they “are doing a fantastic job … but we still have some serious issues. For example, prostitution and human trafficking are still happening out there with some clubs.”

In recent weeks, he pointed out, two bars that are not KSTA members — Bunny Club and NB Club in the Toko-ri area outside Camp Casey’s rear gate — were put off limits by the Army in connection with reports of prostitution.

Some KSTA bars in The Ville are not paying heed to capacity limits and, in some cases, are packing in twice the number of people they are supposed to, Wallace said.

“It’s got to stop,” he said.

Wallace said that by crowding soldiers into their bars, and not being aware of some of the music the DJs are playing, the owners could lay the groundwork for fights.

Wallace said there are a few songs “your DJs will know” that, when played, sometimes prompt soldiers to flash gang signs and otherwise posture — things that could lead to trouble.

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