Why Do Men in Korea Think I’m a Prostitute?

These streets were made for walking…

“Are you Russian?”

I am waiting for the light to change while walking to my job as an elementary school English teacher when a young Korean man rolls down his window and yells this seemingly innocuous question. Immediately I am furious.

I’ve been told before that sometimes men in Korea will ask white women if they are Russian, which is an informal way of asking if they are a prostitute because there are so many Eastern European women in the sex industry here. But I’m in a smallish town, I’m dressed professionally, and I’m carrying my lunch. I really don’t think my appearance screams “prostitute!” But maybe I’m wrong…I mean, even prostitutes need to eat lunch. I glare at the man, and walk away, brushing off the incident as a one-time insult by an ignorant man.

A few months later, I am waiting at a bus station while Matt is in the bathroom. As I sit there playing with my phone, a middle Eastern man approaches me and asks me “Are you Russian?”

This time I just look at him and say “No.” I try to ignore him and go back to my phone, but he asks 2 or 3 more times. I repeat “no,” saying it in both English and Korean. I think he’s finally gotten the point, because then he walks away.

However, less than a minute later he returns with a friend and they eagerly asked me again “Are you Russian?” I say no again, and they switch tactics. “Are you Ukrainian?”

Getting frustrated I finally say “No! I’m American.”

“Oh, American.” They look disappointed. And then they walk away, which further proves my theory that they were not just interested in discussing my nationality. I was currently wearing a sweatshirt and sneakers, hadn’t showered that day (which I know is unbelievably sexy), plus I always wear my wedding ring, and yet somehow I was giving off the prostitute vibe. I’m not sure whether to be flattered or offended…

Do I look like a prostitute?

Have you ever been mistaken as a lady of the night or propositioned while traveling? I got the idea to write about this because of this post by a fellow traveler, so I know I’m not the only one. Right? Right? Guys, is this thing on?


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About andreasherrodd

We're a couple of wanderlusters who love travel, food and adventure. Our goal is to see the world, and to inspire you to do the same. Follow our adventure at www.world-walk-about.com.

21 responses to “Why Do Men in Korea Think I’m a Prostitute?”

  1. The Adventures of Twins says :

    Can’t say that’s ever happened to me but I can imagine how embarrassing and frustrating it must’ve been. Has anyone approached you while you were with Matt? I can’t imagine how women travel alone..I’d be so frightened. -Jo

    • andreasherrodd says :

      Both times I was alone…but honestly, I didn’t feel unsafe either time, just annoyed. Both times were fully out in public, where there were lot’s of bystanders. I just laughed it off as a crazy quirk of Korea…but Matt was pissed, especially the second time!

  2. Your Old Man and Mama says :

    Yikes! You didn’t tell us this story!!!

    • andreasherrodd says :

      It’s actually super common here…almost every white woman has a similar story. But it’s less scary than it sounds, it was just irritating mostly 🙂 Just people being ignorant!

  3. Madeleine Nelsen says :

    Hi Andrea! This post cracked me up because a very similar thing happened to me once in Long Beach, CA. I was walking down the street on my way to teach English to Cambodian refugees (dressed very conservatively!) and a grandpa in a pickup truck pulled alongside and asked me if I wanted to go for a ride. At first I thought he was just being nice, but then he said “I have fifty dollars!” Oh my gosh it makes me laugh now but at the time I thought “You think you can get *this* for fifty bucks, old man?” (Also, this happened 900 years ago, when $50 was worth more than it is now. Ahem.)

    • andreasherrodd says :

      Glad to know it’s not just men in Korea…I guess glad isn’t really the right word though, as much as I laugh and make jokes, it really does irritate me that men make those assumptions! Also, you should have told him to tack on another zero and you’d think about it and see what kind of reaction he had then! 🙂

  4. Rachel says :

    Hasn’t happened yet for me, though I’ve been sort of braced for it. Some of my friends have had this unfortunate experience. I hear they pick on blondes most.

  5. Jeff says :

    Nice hoodie. I hear that it’s the height of comfort.

  6. francyrosa says :

    Luckily it hasn’t never happened to me as I would be very frustrated. I can not understand why we can not walking peacefully without being annoyed by men.

  7. francyrosa says :

    Luckily I’ve never experienced something like that and can imagine how frustrated you shouls have been. I really donìt know why girls have to bear such annoying things!

  8. Alex says :

    I am mistaken for a lady of the night regularly. My best tactic is to just repeat the question and keep walking,or just keep saying “What?” like you can’t hear them.

  9. Jillian says :

    Story of my life. Glad you could get a taste of the struggles of my life.

    • andreasherrodd says :

      HAHA! I’m actually surprised this doesn’t happen to you all the time, given all the weirdness you’ve experience on public transit and/or just walking around.

  10. Annette says :

    This has not happened to me…yet! But, at least now I will be better prepared thanks to this post 🙂

    • andreasherrodd says :

      Yah, I’ve heard it’s pretty common. It’s pretty ridiculous though to assume all white girls are prostitutes, I wish I knew some more Korean so I could tell those men off!

  11. Fidel says :

    I’ve only heard of this happening to my Filipino friends when they travel abroad but I can see why this would happen to you in Asia. There are a lot of Eastern Europeans flocking to Asia and I suppose many of them may be involved in the sex industry and criminal underworld. My advice, tell them you are US military and I bet they quickly run away, lol.

    • andreasherrodd says :

      Haha, that’s a good idea! I’ve also heard if I tell them in Korean I’m a school teacher they will probably leave me alone (because that is a respected position), but I can’t ever remember how to say it…

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