What happened to The Review Board?

Last January, www.thereviewboard.net was seized by law enforcement as part of a sex trafficking investigation. The community that had so long relied on it as a source of quality erotic service providers and positive community engagement scattered. Same panicked, some still are, but the community is intact and ok.

At the center of the investigation were Korean women working here in Seattle and the group of men and at least one woman responsible for their management. The facts, as best I know them, are these: a small group of people, mostly clients and members of the review board, formed an association for the sole purpose of aiding the movement of Korean women from Korea to the US and from place to place periodically. This group arranged for apartments to use as the women’s workplaces, scheduling services, advertising services, and screening. The group, calling themselves The League of Gentlemen, were indiscreet in their activities, often meeting in public to discuss their activities and admitting in detail their business model to an undercover detective who had been invited into the group. On January 6, 13 men and one woman were arrested and 12 Korean women were removed from the apartments they worked out of (I think. It was reported by LE that they ‘rescued’ 12 women but it is unclear what happened) and the review board, along with a dedicated ‘K-Girl’ website KgirlDelights, was seized as part of the investigation. There is a very long discussion on TNABoard about the status of the league members and there are a lot of details to wade through but it is clear that they are facing several criminal charges all for promoting prostitution.

Law Enforcement has stated they will release all information to any journalist who submits an information request so anyone who has had an appointment with a ‘K-Girl’ or who gave personal information to anyone involved in the league should take precautions against when, not if, their name is released as a client. I can recommend the services of my personal attorney and would be happy to direct trusted clients to his firm. There is a former prosecutor offering his service to SWOP and to clients but he has much yet to learn about our community.

The narrative from LE is that they rescued women from sexual slavery, daily sexual violence, and emotional and financial abuse by their pimps. The Sex Workers Outreach Project officially told a different story about nosy, racist law enforcement pushing a moral agenda on consenting adult sex workers. My personal thought is that the truth is somewhere in between. It is reasonable for women to choose sex work in the US instead of sex work in Korea. I know that if those were my options I would choose the US and if I spoke little to no English I would need assistance in finding a work place, scheduling clients, etc. Many women choose sex work not because they love it but because it fits their needs better than other work and I respect that. Several providers from that group attended a meet and greet party and admitted to coming here with full knowledge and of her own free will. I suspect they had little control over their client list or their menu of services offered and that doesn’t sit well with me but it’s only a suspicion and disliking your job isn’t the same as being sexually assaulted or forced, defrauded, or coerced. One provider accused the female member of the league of purchasing a debt from Korean mobs and then using threats of violence and coercion to force the provider into sex work. If true, that is despicable and exactly the sort of thing SWOP objects to. They argue that decriminalization will make it easier to separate out genuine cases of force, fraud, and coercion into sex work if those of us who choose it freely are able to operate with minimal interference. On this I have no hard answers, only what would make my life easier and, ideally, free up resources.

Independent providers have not been compromised. Myself and my colleagues laid low for the first few days but it is very clear that, while LE is leaning towards an ‘end demand’ strategy, individual providers are not of interest and it is highly unlikely that we will attract LE attention unless there are complicating factors such as drug use, underage providers, or other risks. Clients can rest assured that their favorite independent providers are still around, still seeing clients, and learning more about digital security systems and such.

That being said, digital security is only the second line of defense. Before LE spends resources investigating someone or something, they need to have something that raises a flag to attract attention. The high number of men entering and leaving the building along with providers who obviously speak little or no English brought attention from the neighbor’s who contacted LE and made the first of many steps connecting the online agencies to real people. LE had known about the board’s existence for years, to the point of attending one or two parties, but had nothing big enough to incite a true investigation. This particular case provided a high profile bust, a lot of seized assets, and the potential for felony convictions instead of simply misdemeanors. The digital trail only provided the evidence to convict, not the motivation to investigate.

This is why I say that digital security is only the second line of defense: the first line of defense is not making yourself a target. If your provider gives you long and detailed instructions, read them and follow them. Don’t wait near her building, wait in your car or at a nearby coffee shop. Don’t knock unless she tells you to. Say hello and goodbye with the door closed. Don’t try to come in until she tells you she’s ready. These are all things we ask you do to decrease the attention we get from our neighbors because neighbors are the first step down a path to trouble.

Back to the community impact: Many of us are left drifting with no appealing options. The Hobby Hunter is Portland based and can raise confusion, though it is a kind and pleasant community. TNABoard has providers and clients that run the gamut from amazing and professional to downright scary and the scary ones tend to be the most vocal/active in the discussions and so the feel of the community is often hostile. I am slowly but surely compiling a list of ladies I know in person or by reputation to be professional and safe but it is no replacement for their own freely given voices. We are working to keep the community alive, however, so don’t give up hope, just stay in touch. I appreciate the continued support of my beloved clients and my community and look forward to what comes of all this turmoil.