Surviving on the Edge: Korean Brothels in Colonial Taiwan

May 9 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge

Jin Jungwon (Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/Discussant: Elizabeth Remick (Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Tufts University)

Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center and the Korea Institute

Despite its wide practice, the sex trade and sex industry in Taiwan and Korea had never been put under governmental control before Japanese colonial rule. In the early stages of colonization, the Japanese colonizers imposed their own laws and regulations on the two newly acquired colonies of Taiwan and Korea. Legislation stipulated that brothels and prostitutes had to be registered, and prostitutes had to undergo regular checks for sexually transmitted diseases.

Previous studies on the history of colonial Korea have widely agreed that the traditional practices of the sex industry in Chosŏn Korea underwent significant changes during Japanese rule. However, the issue of how state-regulated prostitution policies influenced Taiwanese society and shaped its sex industries requires further discussion.

In an attempt to understand how the Japanese state-regulated prostitution system was implemented in colonial Taiwan, this talk focuses particularly on the emergence and spread of Korean prostitutes and brothels across Taiwan from the 1920’s onwards. By exploring the process of one-way migration of Korean prostitutes to Taiwan, the talk seeks to bring to light the different survival strategies of Korean brothel operators in Taiwan and Korea, and to offer new insights on the unique traits of the Taiwanese sex-trade market compared to Korea.