Stars and Stripes reports that the commander of U.S. Forces in Korea has prohibited service members from paying for companionship in bars. I suspect that those unfamiliar with the Korean business environment near military installations will read “companionship” and think “prostitution.” Military policy already prohibited service members from patronizing prostitutes and made violations punishable under military law.
Rather, the new order relates to establishments known as “juicy bars” and an exploitive practice that on the surface appears to fall short of prostitution.
The text of the USFK order explains the situation addressed by the policy change:
There are establishments outside our installations that support human trafficking, usually of young women, many of whom are brought into the country under false pretenses as entertainers
and forced to work in bars or other establishments in violation of their visas. They are subjected to debt bondage and made to sell themselves as companions, or forced into prostitution.
Service members are often encouraged to buy overpriced “juice” drinks in exchange for the company of these women, or to pay a fee to obtain the company of an employee who is then relieved of their work shift (commonly referred to as “bar-fining” or “buying a day off”).
Obviously, in many instances the “juicy bar” facade is just a subterfuge. The commander’s reasoning, however, goes beyond the illegal practices that hide behind the facade and identifies some additional problems related to the practice:
Paying for companionship directly supports human trafficking and is a precursor to prostitution. This practice encourages the objectification of women, reinforces sexist attitudes, and is demeaning to all human beings.
The order is punitive; that is, violations may be prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The text of the order is here.