Only His Love Can Save My Seoul

Part of 7 of in
an interview with Jason Y. Lee by HEIDI KWON
Jan 01, 2015 | min read
Part of 29: Do Good
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He WENT quiet — just long enough for me to feel that maybe the question was too personal. Then with a deep breath he began. “There is one woman who shared her story with us and it continues to resonate with me.”

“She was born into a broken family.” 

I asked if he was willing to share a story that inspired him throughout the production of Jubilee Project’s new documentary, “Save My Seoul”, which is about sex trafficking and prostitution in South Korea. As Jason Y. Lee recounted the story of a woman he and his brother met in South Korea, I felt the weight of her life in his words. I listened as he unveiled a delicate memory. 

“She became a runaway and, while being caught up in that life, she ended up getting raped.” Jason carefully described how, after her attack, she was vulnerable and was pulled into prostitution. “She felt ruined, as though her body was a waste.” 

Unfortunately, a similar story is shared by many prostitutes and those taken as sex slaves. Susceptible women are exploited in moments of vulnerability or coerced by the promise of comfort. As the general public, we tend to write off each prostitute ... as just a prostitute. She is nameless. She is no more than her occupation. 

Or so we think. Jason explained that “as you meet these [prostitutes, johns*, and pimps], you find that no one is really to blame. There’s no real bad guy and the reason is that this tragedy is rooted in our own brokenness ... everyone has a story and a background.

“I think that if I were born in Seoul, I might likely be buying sex as well. You find that you do whatever society lets [you] get away with. It’s an injustice and we have to see these people with love.”

I think that if I were born in Seoul, I might likely be buying sex as well. You find that you do whatever society lets [you] get away with.

Back to the story about the young woman they met. Her life, unlike countless others, has a redemptive refrain. A man extended grace to her and showed her love as if she were his own daughter. From one man’s act of faith, her life has been restored. Now, she is in ministry actively helping other prostitutes and young women get out of the system. 

This story is one of his motivations to keep going, even while he is confronted with the abhorrent reality of human trafficking in South Korea. “As cliché as it might sound, I have hope that change is possible ... I have faith that, if we love each other as God loves us, it can change the world.” Jason’s not alone — many individuals want this issue to end in our generation. 

I have faith that, if we love each other as God loves us, it can change the world.

Talking with Jason, I can see his vibrancy and ardent hope laced throughout Jubilee Project’s creative shorts. For the past several years, he and his brother have utilized their gifts of innovation and storytelling to tug at the heartstrings of their audience. Their ability to illustrate and elicit hope and faith, while tackling issues in our communities such as bullying, depression, and autism, is now being channeled to unveil sex trafficking and prostitution in South Korea. 

“[In creating this documentary] our goal is to end human trafficking. Of course, that’s our God-sized goal, but this is the largest injustice of our generation.”

“Save My Seoul” is Jubilee Project’s first full-length documentary, assembled from hidden camera footage of the appalling injustices occurring in Seoul, South Korea. This film tells stories of those in the sex industry, while also documenting the brothers’ own self-discoveries. “We filmed this as we were learning about it, so it’s as if the audience takes the journey as we discover [this injustice] for ourselves.”

The brothers were exposed to this topic when students persistently asked them to do a film about it. “Students just kept coming to us ... we finally took notice. God was clearly calling us to it.” 

“To be honest, we didn’t think about it that much before. You know, it wasn’t something we were even aware of. We hear about sex trafficking happening in places far and foreign like Cambodia or Thailand, but not somewhere close to home like Korea. Once we became exposed to it, we couldn’t ignore it.”

Learning that this system is so pervasive in a developed country like South Korea brings light to the fact that it could be and actually is happening in the United States as well. Once Jason saw what was happening, he realized he could no longer see these women as objects or ignore the idea of sex trafficking. Instead he began to see each of them as individuals, as his sister, friend, or wife.

“I think that’s the source of change. You begin to see these people as people, just like you or me. And you love them.”

I think that’s the source of change. You begin to see these people as people, just like you or me. And you love them.

He explained how creating the film affected his walk with Christ and his understanding of God’s love, “I have learned that I am really not in control. God is the director of this documentary and of our lives.” Listening to the women reminds us that these systems are perpetuated by our own brokenness. Their stories are like a mirror to our own hearts. 

He is humbled, filled with compassion, and learning that we are inspired to love as Christ loves and accepts us regardless of our pasts. We are able to love, because of the way God loves and forgives us. Jason is reminded that God uses broken people like him to do incredible things and that God also wants this injustice to end. 

“It’s a balance between being an advocate for change and realizing that, if God isn’t with us, this is all for nothing. We are able to do this, because of our faith in Him.” 

I asked if it was difficult to film a documentary that stood in stark contrast to the other works they have produced. He replies, “It’s very different from what we have done before. Instead of developing our own [stories], we get stories from real people ... and we embrace it even if it’s hard. It has been a challenge, but it is exciting ... it has pushed us to grow as a production company.

“We feel really privileged to make this documentary and that we have the opportunity to share this story. I want people to know that we all have a responsibility in the change that we want to see. I really believe that human trafficking is the biggest injustice of this generation and together we have the tools to bring it to an end.”

We all have a responsibility in the change that we want to see.
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Save My Seoul is projected to be completed in Spring 2015. To find a screening near you, or to learn more about the project, visit savemyseoul.com.

* “johns” refers to clients of prostitutes

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