On the Verge of (Il)Legality: Korean Nightclub Hostesses in Japan
Presented by Professor Haeng-ja Chung, Department of Anthropology, Hamilton College.
A nightclub hostess in Japan is often confused with a prostitute and misunderstood as an illegal worker by some Americans. While hostess work itself is a legal occupation in Japan, because there is no hostess visa, the boundary between legality and illegality becomes a complicated issue when migrants work as hostesses. In this presentation I investigate the blurred boundaries between the legality and illegality by considering the theoretical notion of "human security." My research is based upon my in-depth, long-term, multi-sited ethnographic field study involving participant observation working as a paid hostess at multiple nightclubs in 2000-2001 and follow-up research in 2008-2010 in Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Seoul. It becomes evident that certain law is applied differently based upon gender and nationality. Such double standards contribute to shifting the legal boundaries. The law enforcement's intermittent, inconsistent handling of migrant workers further perpetuates the vicious cycle, which undermines the human security of migrant workers.