Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book Review: Sex Among Allies

Title: Sex Among Allies
Author: Katharine H.S. Moon
Softcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Columbia University Press (April 15, 1997)
ISBN-10: 0231106432
ISBN-13: 978-0231106436

Case studies are decidedly difficult to objectively review because one isn't just reviewing the accuracy of details and author neutrality but also the writing style and subject matter, as well. A boring case study, important as it may be, might be less entertaining than one of relatively low importance but that is easy to get into. This book is caught somewhere in between the two. Sex Among Allies is, nonetheless, an important study that deals with Korean prostitution around American military installations from the 50s to the late 80s, particularly with their change prompted by the "Nixon" Doctrine of 1971.

The premise that not only did prostitution thrive among American servicemembers and Korean women during this time but that it was sanctioned by the American military and the Korean government is alarming. As such, the illegal business were allegedly managed by local police and enforced by club owners. Negative impacts on society such as rampant spreading of venereal disease, racial tensions among white and black soldiers (and local business owners) and the social stigma of association was the women's to bear alone. The book's objectively is called into question by placing virtually all blame on both governments' efforts to promote prostitution as a means of recreation for soldiers; the women to sacrifice themselves to be "personal ambassadors" from Korea. Many of these objections were addressed in a mass cleanup effort in the early 1970s.

The story Professor Moon tells, however, is unmistakably genuine. The social stigma of such work forced many women, mostly from low educational backgrounds, to be stuck in a constant cycle of debt and abuse with little chance to better themselves. The book's position is clear: the unfortunate circumstances regarding the shantytowns that erected around U.S. bases places an even shame on all parties involved; those who set up shop and those who patroned the illict clubs. However dated the book may be, as many of these camps have since shut down or moved, the book's mere existence surely are evidence of change.

This book isn't exactly coffeebook reading material. However biased the view taken in the book may be, the history of such affairs and the arguments presented are well-sourced and difficult to fully refute. Take the book's stance with caution but embrace it for exposing a shameful past in hopes of not repeating it.
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Alright, alright. No dirty sailor jokes. I started reading this book before entering the service and finished it almost half a year later. I was a little squeemish reading it on base but I keep to myself mostly.

Professor Moon mentions Camp Arirang (1995) but I could only find this trailer. I'd like to know more about what all has changed since the book (and documentary). Are things as bleak these days as they seem in the study?


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