By Stephanie Yang
“This is an invitation to something greater, a movement which we should fight against this great injustice.”
The non-profit organization Jubilee Project held a screening of its new hour-long documentary film for Northwestern students on Friday, Jan. 29. Titled “Save My Seoul,” the film featured two Korean-American brothers who uncovered the complexity of Korea’s underground sex trafficking industry. The event was hosted by Northwestern’s human rights organization “Fight for Freedom” and was co-sponsored by the Korean American Students Association, Asian Pacific American Coalition, UNICEF and the Buffett Center.
The movie portrayed sex trafficking as rooted in multiple issues of Korean society by introducing different perspectives of Korean people toward prostitution and sex trafficking through interviews with former sex workers, pimps, police and johns, as well as the use of hidden cameras to capture Seoul’s central red light districts.
Jason Lee, the director of “Save My Seoul” and the co-creator of the Jubilee Project, suggested at the screening that addressing the sex trafficking problem in Korea should not be about deciding who is to blame, but about acknowledging the issue as a consequence of patriarchal Korean culture that ignores one of its biggest ongoing injustices.
“This is the greatest injustice of our time, in our generation,” Lee said, citing the 27 million victims of sex trafficking in the global population. “It’s a tough issue to digest.”
The screening at Northwestern was one of the first showcases of the movie’s rough-cut. Lee said that he expects the final version of the film to be ready for release in five or six months.
According to the Korean Feminist Association, there are 500,000 to 1.2 million girls working as sex workers in South Korea. 5 out of 10 Korean men have confessed to buying sex at least once in their life time, as reported by the Korea Women’s Development Institute in 2010. The National Tax Service Report released in the same year also cites that Korean businessmen spend billions on brothel and motel services.
The Jubilee Project began in 2010 when Jason and his friends, including his brother Eddie Lee, decided to respond to the Haiti earthquake by street performing, or busking, at a New York City subway station. After raising $70 that day, the three posted a video about the disaster on Youtube. A successful move; the video received 8,000 views, and the Jubilee Project raised over $700 for the earthquake relief.
“That was the first time when we realized that film, stories and media were such a powerful medium for our generation,” Lee said, recalling the origin of his project.
After creating videos on controversial topics such as domestic violence and autism, the team began to realize the growing prevalence of sex trafficking issues across the world. One day, the directors received a call from a pastor in South Korea who invited the Jubilee Project to visit the country and feature its underground industry. The call became a stepping stone for their new project.
“It was originally going to be a 15-minute mini documentary,” Lee said. “And we came back with 150 hours of footage.”
Lee said the point of the movie was not intended to make Korea look bad or to upset Koreans. Instead he pointed out that sex trafficking is an issue that pervades societies everywhere.
“The issue is too complex,” he said, stressing the need for individual awareness. “We need to start caring for our local community because [sex trafficking] happens everywhere. Everyone must have an opportunity to play a role in this environment.”
The screening was followed by a short online survey in which the audience gave comments about the film and the sex trafficking issue in Korea. McCormick sophomore Eugene Park thought the movie was heartbreaking.
“It got me thinking about a lot of things,” he said.
“I didn’t expect the sex-trafficking to be that rampant in such a developed country like South Korea,” said Jamie Choi, a follower of the Jubilee Project from Chicago. “It was very eye-opening.”