Daily Archives: 17 July 2008

Lankov on the Origins of Commercialized Prostitution in Korea

In my reduced blog-reading of late, I’ve been a little slow to note an interesting take, by Andrei Lankov in the Korea Times, on the origins of what is now a highly developed industry in Korea (and elsewhere, in both supply and demand): commercialized prostitution.

Traditionally, most East Asian countries have had few scruples with regard to extramarital sex as far as males were concerned, but before 1900, Japan was remarkable in the development of commercial prostitution on a grand scale.

In this regard it was different from Korea, where in old times only the rich and famous could afford to buy expensive sexual services from gisaeng girls, while the “low orders” usually had no access to commercial sex whatsoever.

The Korean nationalists love to stress this fact, explaining it as another indication of the alleged “spiritual purity” of Koreans. Well, less lofty explanations are more likely, but it is difficult to deny that the large-scale prostitution industry was created by the Japanese presence.

In the 1850s, Japan was “opened” to the world, but for decades afterward it remained a very poor place, so “export-oriented” prostitution became a major industry there.

The Japanese working girls, known as “karayuki-san” (“those going overseas”), plied their trade across Asia, from Sydney to Vladivostok, from Shanghai to Singapore, usually supervised by Japanese brothel owners.

A Japanese prostitute and brothel remained ubiquitous components of urban life in the Asia-Pacific for the decades between 1870 and 1920, and remittances from these girls, who duly sent their earnings back home, were said to be the third biggest foreign currency earner for Japan at the turn of the 20th century.

Of course, neighboring Korea became one of the areas where Japanese prostitution flourished. Contrary to the now common misperception, typical commercial sexual encounters in Korea before 1900 did not involve a poor Korean girl serving some lusty Japanese male.

If anything, the situation in which a Korean male purchased sex from a Japanese female was probably more common. Until the 1910s, the vast majority of prostitutes operating in the country were Japanese.

Koreans may want to blame Japan for commercializing prostitution in Korea, but Japan can hardly be blamed for the growth of prostitution everywhere else in East, Southeast, and South Asia, except insofar as it led the way in creating a model of economic growth that spread the wealth beyond a narrow elite.

via The Marmot

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Filed under China, economics, industry, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Southeast Asia

Ichiro’s “English for Special Purposes”

On top of his fine analytical and motor skills on the baseball field, Ichiro seems to possess the motivational skills necessary to manage an American baseball team, or so reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, who credits Ichiro’s motivational speeches for the American League’s string of wins in recent All-Star Games. Look for him to manage, say, the Chicago White Sox after he retires from playing.

“It’s why we win,” David Ortiz said.

He pointed to Ichiro Suzuki, the Seattle Mariners’ wisp of an outfielder, a man who still uses a translator to do interviews with English-speaking reporters – and happens to be baseball’s amalgam of Anthony Robbins and George Carlin. Every year, after the AL manager addresses his team, Ichiro bursts from his locker, a bundle of kinetic energy, and proceeds, in English, to disparage the National League with an H-bomb of F-bombs, stunning first-timers who had no idea Ichiro speaks the queen’s language fluently and making returnees happy that they had played well enough to see the pep talk again.

The tradition began in 2001, Ichiro’s first All-Star appearance, and the AL hasn’t lost a game since. Coincidence?

Um. No.

“I know how important it is to the game,” Ichiro said. “I’m more concentrated at that moment than I am in the game.”

A wide grin spread across his face. Ichiro’s secret had been exposed, so, hey, why not have fun with it?

He crafts his public portrayal similar to the image he projects on the field: a technician, a warrior, a Ph.D. in stoicism. In reality, Ichiro’s All-Star teammates love him for his wicked sense of humor and sly deceit, shown with a vocabulary far more expansive than he leads on.

All the first baseman around the AL know Ichiro speaks English, singles accounting for 1,393 of his 1,711 hits since joining Seattle in 2001. Generally, the conversation doesn’t move much past pleasantries, which makes the speech all the more shocking.

via Daniel Drezner

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Filed under baseball, Japan, language, U.S.