Yumi Li (a nickname) grew up in a Korean area of northeastern China. After university, she became an accountant, but, restless and ambitious, she yearned to go abroad.These stories are not new, but they bear repeating. Whether it's Filipinas or Russians in Korea or Japan, or Chinese or Koreans in America, there are some real tragedies behind the faces of prostitution.
So she accepted an offer from a female jobs agent to be smuggled to New York and take up a job using her accounting skills and paying $5,000 a month. Yumi’s relatives had to sign documents pledging their homes as collateral if she did not pay back the $50,000 smugglers’ fee from her earnings.
Yumi set off for America with a fake South Korean passport. On arrival in New York, however, Yumi was ordered to work in a brothel.
“When they first mentioned prostitution, I thought I would go crazy,” Yumi told me. “I was thinking, ‘how can this happen to someone like me who is college-educated?’ ” Her voice trailed off, and she added: “I wanted to die.”
She says that the four men who ran the smuggling operation — all Chinese or South Koreans — took her into their office on 36th Street in Midtown Manhattan. They beat her with their fists (but did not hit her in the face, for that might damage her commercial value), gang-raped her and videotaped her naked in humiliating poses. For extra intimidation, they held a gun to her head.
If she continued to resist working as a prostitute, she says they told her, the video would be sent to her relatives and acquaintances back home. Relatives would be told that Yumi was a prostitute, and several of them would lose their homes as well.
Yumi caved. For the next three years, she says, she was one of about 20 Asian prostitutes working out of the office on 36th Street. Some of them worked voluntarily, she says, but others were forced and received no share in the money.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
The face of modern slavery in the sex industry
Writing in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof has a piece that illustrates how many women in the sex industry in America are not in it voluntarily, regardless of what many people — especially their customers — would like to believe. Nor are they necessarily illiterate dupes or drug addicts. He uses a Chosŏnjok (ethnic Korean in China) as an example of this "modern slavery":