No, I’m Not Russian and NO, I’m Not A prostitute!

A couple weeks ago, I was walking through Time World, an area of Dunsan-dong filled with high class name brands such as Louise Vuitton and Gucci and the very frequented, and oh so popular Korean dance clubs. As I roamed through Time World looking for a store where I could buy pants that could actually be worn as pants and not capri’s, I was approached by two Korean women. They started speaking a language other than Korean or English and when they saw the puzzled look on my face, one of them quickly said “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you were Russian.” 

This is not the only time someone in Korea has assumed I was Russian. I found it very puzzling and quite bizarre, until I spoke to another foreigner who provided an explanation. Assumingly, she said “You know what that means don’t you?” So far, I’ve just assumed it was the reddish brown hair I’ve been sporting until she informed me “Are you Russian” is code for “Are you a prostitute?” Seriously? Am I a prostitute?? Can I just say, I am very glad I am not Russian and I have genuinely been able to say no to both questions. I feel so bad for the poor Russian girl that visits Korea and doesn’t understand that she is admitting she is a prostitute by simply answering “Yes, I am Russian.” So please, please, warn your Russian friends before the visit Korea! 

When you think of a prostitute, many of you may think of the grown woman who is choosing that lifestyle to pay for an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Some of you will think of the women who are in abusive relationships, being forced to do such things, only to come home to a beating for not making enough money for the day. Others will think of the children who were manipulated by sick, perverted, adults and forced to do things at a young age and don’t know any other way to live than the way they were taught. But I want you to know there is another group of woman who become prostitutes here in Korea. They are known as the “undesirables.” 

When I use the word undesirable, I am not referring to their outward appearance or character being unattractive in any way. I am referring to the stigma attached to being less than perfect, and therefore unmarriable by Korean standards. **Disclaimer, please know, I am coming from a place of ignorance and naivety and I only write to you what I have learned so far. 

There are certain things that are not spoken of in Korea. In the process of applying to come here, I had to take a mini questionnaire asking about my history with drugs and alcohol, illness, mental illness, marital status, ect,. I answered all the questions honestly and was told by my recruiter to never mention to anyone that I have struggled with depression. I wasn’t comfortable lying, so I was concerned with how it would all play out and fortunately for me, it never came up.
Just as I was told not to mention depression, a woman who comes from a family who’s parents have been divorced is instructed never to mention it, or to lie about it. If a man knows she comes from a family where her parents are no longer married, she is suddenly marked not worthy to marry. The same rule applies for any woman who was raised without parents or in an orphanage. These girls have no control over the decisions their parents will make or the circumstances that will lead them to living in an environment where they are left without a family but they are solely responsible for such things when it comes to their future.  
This past Saturday, I visited a local orphanage for the first time. I was so eager to visit and as we sat and talked in broken English with the children, I learned their age, name, where they are from and their favorite food. One of the girls I met, introduced herself as Julia and said she was 18, which is her Korean age so she is actually 17. As she told me her age, her adult life flashed before my eyes and I thought about the unknown future that lies before her. Every part of me hopes that what I have heard is just a myth and that Julia and her big beautiful smile and spirit that shines so bright won’t be one of the woman who sells herself just to get any attention or affection from a man because this culture says she is not worthy to have it on her own.
I pray that Julia will have the opportunity to marry and have children of her own if she so desires. It breaks my heart to know that this precious child, who has already been denied a family once, will be denied the opportunity again to have her own family.
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1 thought on “No, I’m Not Russian and NO, I’m Not A prostitute!”

  1. Oh how sad. Makes me think of all the kids around the world growing up without any real shot at a decent life that many Americans do. The kids growing up here mostly feel entitled and have so many opportunities. They dismiss these opportunities for whatever reason where as people overseas would risk everything for the same opportunity. Life is very much not fair but in a selfish manner, I’m glad it isn’t.

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