So Jon and I made a trip downtown after work today to find two Indian restaurants as well as two foreign markets – which was a successful trip and another story. As we were headed to the Train Station to pick up the rest of our groceries, we went down a few streets we had never been down as this was unexplored territory.
Let me preface this by letting all of you know Pyeongtaek’s reputation. Our nice little city is known for being a dump filled with prostitution and just being dirty in general. We always figured the red-light district was up near the US Military base in Songtan (a 15 minute drive from downtown Pyeongtaek). We ran into a small portion of it last weekend – with the pink neon lights outside turned on during a beautiful Sunday afternoon. We saw maybe five buildings with the neons outside and steered clear.
Boy did we have the wool pulled over our eyes. Jon and I saw the whole thing by accident today. The red-light district of Pyeongtaek stretches for nearly a kilometer and is 3 blocks deep. Knowing we were further down than the station, we were looking for a shortcut. We saw a straight shot through the pink-neon lined streets to the station. I told Jon I could handle it and we started walking, heads down. Out of the corner of my eye I could see girls squatting down on the porches, barely clothed, in high heels, cigarettes in hand.
It was hard not to want to see what was going on in these facades. When the neon lights were not on I felt like it was safe to look. Most of the units were merely glassed in porches equipped with a heater for the winter and a seat for the employees. Some of them had bottles and little cabinets in them. Behind the glass doors and ‘stage’ lay a single door in most of the storefronts. I don’t want to know what happens or what’s behind the door, but I know it made me a little sick to think about.
There was an eerie empty feeling walking down the streets. Maybe a quarter of the lights were on and almost no one was on the street, with the exception of a few ajummas. Many of the ‘storefronts’ had draped black fabric over the road to serve as a barrier. It was uncomfortable knowing every open door we passed had willing women watching us walk by. Our want to be unnoticed probably made us stand out that much more.
What a dirty part of our city we would more than wish away.
-Interjection of Jon’s thoughts!
I think the weirdest part of this for me was yet another realignment of our view of Pyeongtaek. Not only in the past week have we seen more foreigners (and not of the white American variety) but we discovered for ourselves, this little subgroup of the population in Pyeongtaek, which we had until now not come into contact with but we also realized just how large the sex trade factors into our downtown. By dint of confining ourselves to the more affluent, popular and safe area of downtown we had never come into contact with this. After walking through it to get to the station it was mind-boggling to realize that it literally extends to the plaza in front of the station, and we had never seen it by just pointing our faces forward and heading the opposite direction towards home. For me this has a lot of implications on what I choose to take notice of but, on the other hand, why would I ever want to notice the red light district in Pyeongtaek?
I could go on for a while about the thoughts that go through my head when I think about situations like this, but I’ll save you from my philosophical dealings and end this slightly depressing post with something distracting – KPOP! :D