As I was saying, the movie Joint Security Area sparked a conversation about the military service.
I've heard about the prison where incarcerated soldiers sit together, in a communal cell, straight-backed and mute. I know military trainees are sometimes forced to stay awake all night, as punishment, or allowed only one shower a month.
In the film, the men have "interesting" reading material (ie. American pornographic magazines). I was told by a nameless Korean that when soldiers finish their training, they're sometimes taken to "rooms" to celebrate. Rooms are clubs with private rooms where prostitutes entertain patrons.
As a Korean friend and I munched on Japanese food, I asked him about sexuality in the military. It's a taboo topic because Korean girls are not supposed to utter the 'S' word, and men generally aren't eager to divulge information about their time serving, because the memories are unpleasant.
Soldiers sleep in halls, with mats lined up on the floor, so there is little to no privacy. I asked my friend if the guys circulated magazines, as in the film, and he said the soldiers preferred pornographic films. He blushed, remembering a time he pretended to sleep, with one eye open in the black room.
Not only do the men sleep together, they shower together. Homophobia is well and alive in Korea, so I was curious to know if any gay tendencies surfaced, after 2 years together.
My friend has disturbing memories of a gay Sergeant who strolled up and down the sleeping quarters, kissing his soldier of choice on the cheek, and whispering into his ear. One time he masturbated publicly. He was eventually dispatched, to the relief of the soldiers, because rape had become a fear.
A Korean I know was taken to a "room" by a former sergeant, after completing his duty, and he described the following to me:
"For $1,000, three of us got a room to ourselves for 4 hours. The owner brought in the first group of girls. There weren't any attractive ones, so he called in another lineup. We each chose one. The club's slogan was, 100 girls are waiting for you, so we certainly had our pick.
The 4 hours in the room included a bottle of whisky, platters of food, and norebang (karaoke.) My former sergeant, who was paying, negotiated how far the girls would go. I was uncomfortable with the situation, but the other men took advantage.
After the girls left, we were brought bowls of rameyon (noodles) to eat. And then we were asked to leave."