This story was written by me, Dave Potter, but thanks must go to Cafter Homme for the editing and corrections which have made it a better tale than it was originally.
This story was inspired by the following description of the lives of women in traditional Korean society written by Isabella Jane Bird in her 1895 travelogue ‘Korea and Her Neighbours’.
It is also worth the reader acquainting themselves with traditional Korean dress. These diagrams may help:
The information on traditional Korean hairstyles comes from this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfUROEyt39Y
I suppose I should start off by introducing myself. My name is Beo-Jin, Pak Beo-Jin, and I am a high school student at Park Valley Private High for Girls in California. Or at least, I was. I’m not anymore. Not a student, I mean. Like, my name’s not even Beo-Jin. But you’ll get it later.
What I was not and am not is a “normal” girl. After all, how many “normal” Korean girls study in an expensive private high in the US? No, I don’t think so, not normal at all. That was due to my dad. His name is Pak Cha-Ek and he was one of the executive directors of Chollima Inc, a global electronics brand worth, like, billions! That’s how he had the money to send me to such a prestigious school in States, convenient since he was in charge of their American operations. Oh, he paid for everything, but that was it. He never bothered himself much with either my upbringing or my welfare, too busy making money and serving the company. A typical Korean businessman, I guess you’d say. Anyways, we weren’t close.
Nor too did my mum bother herself much about me. I mean, like, she neither raised me nor cared for me; I was always an afterthought. My dad got together with her when he was forty-two and she was just an air-headed nineteen-year old beauty queen. My guess is she had my brother Ryu to get a ring out of my dad, cause knowing him he would’ve just dumped her for the next floozy that came along. Like he had the last. If there had ever been a “spark” between them, it was dead and gone by the time I was here, like, a year or so later. She now spends her time living off of a healthy stipend from dad, usually on the French Riviera where she bathes on yachts, gambles in casinos, and looks for new sugar daddies. Like with dad, we weren’t close.
Despite this rather fucked up family though, I wasn’t depressed or anything drama. You don’t miss what you never had, right? Like, school was alright, especially playing field hockey and soccer; I loved K-Pop, I dyed my hair ginger and did my makeup like Hyuna with no one to stop me; oh! and I loved partying with my cool Cali friends! Yeah, when you’re sixteen and rich in the sun, life ain’t bad.
Or at least, mine wasn’t until the letter arrived. Dad wanted me to come home, and by home I mean Korea. He called it a “summons,” I called it a waste of time. It was only for a visit of course, or at least, that’s what I assumed. I just guessed he’d gone through one of his occasional bouts of parental guilt and wanted to show me what a great dad he actually was. Whatever. It was a bummer, as always; the summer holidays were approaching, and I’d been planning to go with Kelly down to her mum’s place in Mexico. Still, I knew better than to refuse my father. After all, if I pissed him off, my allowance could stop, and bang would go any cool plans and stuff. We all have our cross to bear, right? This was mine. Or so I thought.
The letter informed me that I had a flight booked to Seoul on the Saturday after I finished school, first class of course. It went on to say that I would be met by a car which would drive me to our house which, I was surprised to learn, was a new one that dad had some fancy architect build over the previous year. This was a total shock; why had he mentioned nothing about this a few months back when he’d popped over to LA for business? The letter also mentioned that he had now taken on a new job, from Chollima to Chongsanri, of which he was now Vice President again. You have no idea, I almost, like, screamed. Chollima was big, but Chongsanri was, like, HUGE! The leading Korean tech outfit by a mile. My God, what must dad be making now?! It didn’t really matter, it was good news for me!
Ahh, if only we had the benefit of hindsight!
As promised, I got picked up at Incheon Airport by a blank-faced lackey chauffeur who showed me towards a limo with blacked-out windows. I settled in the back, made myself a coffee from the minibar and watched the world go by. Seoul soon faded away and we were well into the countryside. I was puzzled. Dad had always preferred city life, and in Korea that means Seoul or bust!
Still we drove on and on, up into the mountains. Then, somewhere near to Pyeongchang, we headed off up some creepy side road that made me mistrust the dumb chauffeur, winding through forested slopes until we came to the house itself. Let me tell you, it was not what I had expected.
It was an unsurprisingly large place for Dad but, weirdly, it was built in a very traditional style, like super old fashioned like some sort of Buddhist temple with a walled compound and large pavilions and stuff. Actually at first, you might’ve thought it was ancient; it was only upon a closer look that the modern details became obvious. The car swung into the courtyard and I was shown out by the driver. There to meet me was some maid I had never seen before dressed in like a full, traditional hanbok. Weird. She bowed towards me and told me to follow her, but like, her accent was strange, and I couldn’t place it. Either way I did as she asked, and she led me into one of the pavilions, down some corridors and into a large bedroom furnished in that same old, traditional style. And believe this, on the bed was this ridiculous outfit.
“Your father is busy right now,” said the maid, “but he will meet you for dinner. Please bathe and then dress in the clothes on the bed. If you need a hand, please ring. Otherwise, I shall return at six to show you to him.” And then, with those oddly-formal words, she left.
I was so confused. The opulence was something, but like not that strange?
But all the emphasis on tradition just puzzled me. I mean, you have to understand, Dad had never been that kind of guy. And the outfit that I had to put on matched the surroundings: it was a hanbok. I had worn hanboks before, of course – which Korean girl hasn’t? – but only for special occasions like graduations. But why one today for just a meal with my father? Still, weird as it was, I was super glad to change after the flight, and besides, it was pretty!
I bathed in the adjacent shower and then returned to the room naked. First up was the underwear, which looked like it had come out of the fuckin’ Ark with Moses or something. I was really tempted to put my good Western lingerie back on, but it was a little bit stinky from the long flight so I decided to bite the bullet. Next came the sokchima or underskirt which was supported by hoops, so wide that it was about a metre and a half at the bottom. Then came the chima or skirt which was a golden colour and covered with some super gorgeous embroidery. After that was the jeogori which was in black and also beautifully embroidered. I tied off the otgoreum just below my small, firm breasts. Finally, there were some pretty beoseum socks for my feet and white silk gloves for my hands. After fitting these I looked at myself into the mirror and nearly burst out laughing! Apart from my dyed ginger hair and 21st century make-up, I could have been a girl from the Joseon Dynasty. This was getting to be just ridiculous.
How little did I know.
At six the maid returned to escort me to my father.
What transpired that evening over dinner is seared into my memory forever. I often replay it over and over in my mind, and it always gives me like serious goosebumps. On that evening my life changed, irreversibly.
What struck me first was his costume. Ok, so I was wearing a hanbok already, but in Korea many girls do, especially on special occasions. But dad had on the male hanbok, something no guy ever does except maybe when he’s like getting married or something. But there he was, sitting at the table, sipping soju and looking like an extra out of one of those period dramas on TV. Weird.
That was only the start, though. Then came the sudden change in attitude. Suddenly he was all formal with me as if he had somehow changed. The word that comes to mind when I think about it is ‘brainwashed’. Yes, like as if someone or something had washed out his old, corporate, money-making brain and replaced it with something straight out of the nineteenth century. He was formal and particular and although we discussed nothing really beyond small talk and pleasantries during the meal, in my gut I just knew something was up. I also noticed that he didn’t really even ask me about school either, and when I started to tell him about my time on the beach and parties with my American friends, he was clearly uninterested. All he would say was, “Some things are going to change.”
After dinner we chilled out in a traditional sitting-room and after I pressed him a bit more he explained to me what. It was all to do with him moving to Chongsanri. The corporation, at least in it’s highest echelons, seemed to have a very different philosophy than Chollima, or really the rest of the country. At all of dad’s previous jobs it had all been about making money as quickly as possible, but Chongsanri was something else entirely. Chongsanri was all about Korea. To paraphrase another slightly-deranged demagogue, their president was obsessed with trying to make Korea great again. And in my dad he had apparently found a willing disciple.
“The problem is that we try to ape the foreigners, the Westerners, the Chinese, even the Japanese, all those who have oppressed us in the past. We mimic their business methods, their Christian religion, their mode of dress, their tinny pop music and even their hair colour.” He looked at my ginger locks when he said this and I felt uneasy. “But we are not Western, nor Chinese, nor Japanese. We are Koreans! A great nation, millennia old, glorious and cultured! Yet it is as if we are ashamed of our heritage, as if we try to hide it. At Chongsanri they are trying to change that. We are prosperous, yet also true to our Korean roots. We provide jobs for Korean people and extoll Korean culture. Look at this country and the sorry state that it is in! I know this sounds incredible, but even the North, that poverty-stricken, dictator-dominated hellhole, even they are better than us. At least the Kims that they worship were true Koreans who battled the outsiders, not gave in to them or aped them. They glory in their identity! None of their women dye their hair, and their music sounds like true Korean music should. And their women are chaste too! None of this sex before marriage and cohabitation. Compared even to them, we are cultural paupers!”
As he was speaking all this nonsense, like I totally recognised the strange accent of the maid. She was from the North!
“My new boss, Kwon Yong-Byok, the CEO of Chongsanri, has shown me an alternative way, and I have embraced it. I now live as a businessman, yes, but also as a true Korean. This house for starters; it is like the houses that our ancestors dwelt in, except that there is a crucial difference: technology. Back then people died early, got sick, endured the cold and many other deficiencies in life, because the technology was not there. We were vulnerable to domination because of this. What Yong-Byok and now I do, is live in the traditional Korean way but with technology on hand to help us to enhance that wonderful mode of life even further. So the house for example, it has ondol heating as is typically Korean, but the heated vapours are geothermally generated and time-controlled. We have taken tradition and refined it with technology. The happy news is that our family can now live in an almost perfect, original, Korean manner.”
“But dad, like, I’m at school in America, so is Gyu. And mum is, well, mum is wherever she is…”
“No, Beo-Jin, you were at school in America. The old me sent you there. But I have summoned you back here because we’re going to start living as a family again and we are going to live in a true Korean fashion. You shall not be returning to your school; from now on you’ll live here as a proper Korean girl.”
“Fuck that, like, no way! I want to return to Cali! My friends are there and–”
“Lesson Number One, Beo-Jin: Korean society is Confucian. We obey our parents. When I say that you shall be living here, then you shall be living here.” His voice wasn’t angry, but unforgiving.
“But I don’t want to! And besides, up here in the mountains, like, we’re away from everything that means anything. I mean, I’ll be fair, it’s like nice and all, but there’s no school, no jobs, no opportunities. Do you even have wifi?”
“Beo-Jin, you will not be returning to school. It is unnecessary. A Korean girl’s destiny in life is to marry and become an honourable wife to her husband. School will not teach you that, certainly not the schools that you have been attending up till now. From tomorrow onward you will be living at home and learning your future duties as a submissive and honourable wife.”
“Jesus, Dad, I’m sixteen! I don’t want to marry, like, for ten years, at least! I want a career and to go out with my friends and…”
“Silence! There will be no speak of false western idols in my home! What you want is immaterial! A Korean girl’s destiny is to obey her parents and then her husband. And sixteen is a perfectly suitable age to be married. Indeed, in the Joseon Era girls were often wed well before then. Besides, you are not ready yet. You need training to become a suitable wife and that will take time.”
“No, dad, no! This is my life, not yours and I’m not some stupid fucking submissive drone who is going to be ordered about by a man. This is not the nineteenth century, it’s like, the twenty-first! We’ve had a sexual revolution, or haven’t you realised that? I love you dad, but I will not live as you want! I’m sorry but that is that!”
And with those words his face changed. I’d expected anger, but instead he just looked defeated and disappointed. He slumped in his chair and poured out another measure of soju. “This is too much, too fast, I suppose,” he said.
“Yeah, it is,” I replied, glad that he was speaking like a human being again.
“Ok, we’ll see about amending things then. Forget what I said for now and drink some tea with me.” He poured a cup from an exquisite Joseon Era teapot and I raised it to my lips. It tasted really nice and wasn’t too hot, so I drained the tiny cup in one.
Within seconds my sight began to blur, and I slumped to the floor in a faint.
I awoke in the floor-level bed in that traditional bedroom where I’d changed after first arriving, feeling pretty strange. Then I realised that under my head was not a usual pillow but a traditional Korean buckwheat pillow in its hard, bundled rolls. Raising my head, it felt strangely heavy, so annoyed and confused I got up and walked to the mirror. What I saw shocked me.
My ginger styling was all gone and instead I had natural, jet black hair again! More than that, this hair was long, very long, reaching past my waist when unpinned from the top of my head. That was the weight I had felt. But what had happened? Obviously, I had been drugged and during the time I had been out they’d dyed my hair black. But what about the length? I checked. Extensions. Hmm… Nothing else seemed different. Why would my deranged father drug me just to redo my hair? He must be going mad!
I took off my slip and checked my body all over. The hair was gone from down between my legs, which was a bit disconcerting, but that was all. Oh yes, and a small mark like a tiny incision or a bug bite just above my love slit. What was it? Hmm…
That same maid came in. “You are awake, Miss Beo-Jin. Please, bathe yourself and then let me prepare you,” she said with her Pyongyang accent.
I took a shower and then came back. Lain out on the bed was another hanbok, this time with a yellow chima and a pink jeogori. “I’d prefer a different outfit,” I told her.
“There are only hanboks in this house,” she replied.
I was naked and my suitcase was nowhere to be found so, reluctantly, I put it on. Then she sat me down and started doing my hair in an elaborate fashion. “Please, just a ponytail,” I said. It was starting to become obvious what was happening.
“Your father orders this style,” she replied simply.
I knew there and then that I had to put a stop to this before it went too far. “Fuck what my father wants,” I told her. “This is my hair! My body! Haven’t you people heard of like, feminism?”
And then I got up and dashed out of the room. I had to get out of here, to escape. Dad obviously wasn’t going to observe my wishes, so to hell with him! I expected her to try and stop me, but to my surprise she just nodded and passively let me get away. Hurriedly, I walked down the corridor to the courtyard. I crossed the courtyard to the main gate. It was ajar. I went to go through it when suddenly like this piercing pain racked my body, like an electric shock starting at my genitals and coursing outwards. I tried to push myself through, but the pain was too great, like fire and ice all at once coming from my mound! I jumped back, and it subsided. What the fuck was that!? I turned around to see my father and the maid standing on the pavilion, silently. He was smiling. “You cannot leave,” he said calmly.
“What the fuck was that!?” I demanded.
“Your new implant. It was inserted whilst you were asleep. It ensures obedience. Whenever you try to leave the woman’s quarters of our home, it will activate. I am sorry to do this to you, but you need to be taught how to become an honourable Korean woman. You will be punished whenever you try to leave or whenever I feel it is necessary. Your maid informs me that you refused to have your hair styled correctly. Beo-Jin, I will give you another chance because this life is new to you. Return to your chamber and prepare yourself accordingly. I am your father.”
I stood my ground. “Forget it! I’m not your doll to be made up and kept in a cage, let me go!!”
And I stormed past the invisible line again and my pussy instantly contracted in pain while the rest of my body contorted, trying to dispel the intense shock, the pain, but it was no use, I retreated back toward them.
My father was not smiling anymore. “Beo-jin! You will be punished for your insolence, return to your chamber!”
I wanted to object, to counter, to rebel, but the memory of the pain was too horrific. Like the submissive Korean girl that he wanted me to be, I returned to my room and let his maid prepare me.
She sat me down on a chair and then started to work, combing my long hair out, parting it down the centre and then plaiting it into a long ponytail. This was then rolled up and fastened low behind my head. A black padded form with red silken ends was then attached to the top of my head using pins and long platts of real human hair brought out, each over a metre long. I later learned that these, like the maids, came from the North, with Chongsanri paying huge quantities for North Korean girls to donate their hair. The platts were wrapped around my head and the form and then attached with pins creating a high and round structure but revealing the red silk end of the padded form. This was then decorated with jewellery, I admit really exquisite stuff if I hadn’t been furious by that point.
“This style is called eoyeo meori,” she explained in a neutral voice when she had finished. “It was the usual style for noble women of the Joseon Era to wear their hair, and so your father has decreed that this is the style for you to wear every day. On special events I shall do your hair in a more elaborate fashion.”
More elaborate! This style had taken the best part of an hour to complete and it was so difficult to wear! The weight was tremendous, and it jangled whenever I moved. And I was expected to endure this every day!
But that was not all.
Next came the make-up. Turns out I was not to leave my room without being made-up from now on. Defeated and passive, I sat there whilst she started the process, applying a really thick coating of white foundation to my entire face and then white powder to create a sort-of porcelain look. Whilst she did this, I tried to engage her by asking her name and so on, but her replies were neutral: “I am only a maid”, “My age does not matter, mistress” and so on. She wouldn’t even admit to being North Korean. “Where the master hired me from is unimportant,” she blithely said. I was starting to really hate this bitch.
After my face, my eyes were done with a variety of cosmetics, including black eyeliner and false lashes to emphasise my femininity. Then came the brows, thin black lines drawn high to emphasise my haughtiness. And finally, the mouth, a pair of red rosebud lips. The china doll was complete. Well, almost. The finishing touch was a pair of white cotton gloves for my hands and that was it.
My first day had no lessons. The maid said that I was to get used to my clothes and my surroundings. It was so weird, just pacing around in that fine dress, the ridiculously wide hooped skirt bumping into things and my heavy hair feeling unsteady as it jangled away. I warily drank tea, and explored the house, or at least, the little I could. Many doors were locked and only one courtyard open to me. When I say “locked,” you might think the doors wouldn’t open, but they did, the whole complex was technically ‘open,’ it just sent powerful ripples through my implant whenever I tried, warning pulses that quickly turned to pain when I looked through, or worse, stepped over the threshold. These were the women’s quarters, and I was barred from the rest, kept modest and pure in my own little prison. I seethed with anger but knew that there was nothing that I could do… yet.
That evening I dined with father again. He was full of praise for my new appearance and called me a “proper Korean maiden”. What a fucking joke I must have looked like, I felt sick to my stomach but said nothing, remembering the pain all too clearly. Whenever I spoke for too long, I would see his hand wander into the pocket of his robes, no doubt waiting for me to say something out of turn. I had no desire to re-live that pain, though, so I gave him no reason to chastise me. Turns out he already had reason enough.
That evening, my head and neck aching from the weight imposed upon it and the trauma of the day, and I looked forward to bed and a chance to become a normal human being again, but bedtime too held some nasty surprises. The maid helped to undress me but then came something that caught me like totally off guard: with a firm grasp she grabbed by wrists and handcuffed them behind my back. Then she led me to the shower and attached the handcuffs to a hook on the wall. After this I was washed thoroughly by her before then being led back into the bedroom and leant over a chair. “Your father has decreed that your misdemeanours be punished. These include any form of disobedience or unladylike behaviour. There have been countless today, but he has told me to go easy on you because it is your first day as a real Korean lady. So, I shall only administer ten strokes for the most heinous.” And then, taking out a large wooden paddle, that pious bitch stood behind me and…
“That is for refusing to have your hair styled.”
“That is for attempting to escape.”
“That is for swearing at your father.”
“That is for swearing at me.”
That night I lay in my bed and tears streamed down my face whilst my bottom was like red raw. Worse still, my hands, encased in padded gloves, were tied to a belt around my waist so I could not dry those tears, whilst my legs were immobilised, encased in a long single stocking with my feet tightly bound in the end, so there would be no nocturnal wandering or touching myself, as I had grown very used to doing every other night back in California. Even this was off limits now.
My life had descended into hell.
And so, my new life began.
Every day I awoke, was showered and then dressed in my sumptuous yet restrictive outfit. Then I attended lessons with my tutor, another North Korean. These were neither interesting nor educational, absolutely nothing like my school in Cali. Instead they were a series of phrases that I had to repeat over and over again. Phrases like “Silence is regarded as a wife’s first duty” or “A wife must be chaste and pure.” With time I realised that they served a dual purpose: to educate me in my new station and to break my spirit. If I made any mistakes they were rewarded with paddles on my bottom before bedtime and for the first few months my bum was always red and sore. I felt like a goddamn child, it was so messed up!
My misery did not end with these lessons though. For the rest of the day (basically the afternoons) my time was my own, but there was so little that I could do now, I was like bored out of my mind. I was officially confined to the female quarters which meant my bedroom, my classroom, a sitting room and dining room and a small courtyard. I was by all means a prisoner, and so in my spare time all I could do was pace around the tiny confines of my prison and wish I was outside. Even that though, was not unobstructed. After my first day, my tutor decreed that my gait was unfeminine and not suitable for a Korean lady. “A noble lady should glide in her hanbok, not prance!” she declared. And so, I was fitted with two straps: the first a thick band of material that was tied just above the knees and the second a leather strap of some twenty centimetres or so fastened to bands that went around my ankles. Now I could only glide – or shuffle – along at a snail’s pace and ascending or descending any steps was like super hard.
In the evenings I still dined with my father elsewhere in the house, and although I now truly hated him, I looked forward to the experience just as a change from the simplistic daily schedule. He would speak at length (not really to me, but at me) about the Chongsanri Corporation and its vision for the rejuvenation of the country. He spoke of the CEO, Kwon Yong-Byok, as if he were a god and spoke of future plans and ideas.
I did not rebel. It is true that in those first few weeks I made several off-hand derogatory remarks to him, instantly resulting in extremely painful contractions in my pussy, but I soon gave that up as it became de-rigueur for me to be gagged after the meal so he could talk at me without interruption. This gag consisted of a large white plastic intrusion with a white leather panel on the end and a strap that reached around my head, buckled at the back. It looked simple but it must have been connected in some way, as every time I groaned or sighed I was rewarded with an appropriately-sized shock below. Dad lauded this gag as an example of how Chongsanri had improved upon the traditional ways. I felt absolutely humiliated, especially since it had ‘A female’s duty is to be silent’ in hangul characters on the front of the panel.
I was docile not just because I remembered the pain, but also because I knew that now was not the time. At our first dinner together after my new life had begun, dad had mentioned that Ryu would also be forced to adopt a traditional lifestyle. I imagined my younger brother, used to his American high school, wandering around in a male hanbok pretending to be some yangban from yore and smiled. Yes, he would never accept that. He would be my ally. Until then, I could wait and endure the charade.
To pass the time it was decreed that I be allowed “feminine pursuits”. If I did well in my lessons I was allowed to paint traditional Korean pictures with an inkbrush or write a scroll in hangul characters. Once I wrote a really nice poem, but using the English alphabet, a “crime” for which I received no less than twenty-six paddles, one for each alien letter. Korean girls, apparently, are only allowed to write Korean characters.
Yes, it was that ridiculous.
Even that pleasure however, was not always allowed to me. Concerned about my unfeminine behaviour, in the women’s quarters I was never far from a maid or my tutor, even when I was supposed to be having free time in the courtyard. Combine this with my sleeping situation, unable to move my hands or legs at all, it didn’t take very long for me to start skipping off to the bathroom in search of privacy. One day during the part of my cycle that always makes me hot and needy, and after I had worked up the courage, I found myself in the bathroom with nowhere to sit (traditional korean toilets are embedded in the floor), determined to get off somehow. Thinking ahead I pried off the tight white gloves, hiked up my massive chima skirt and brought my fingers down, past the faint implant scar to touch my clit, only to receive the most intense, body-wracking shock since my first day here, leaving me sobbing and spasming on the ground, getting my dress all dirty. smearing my makeup, attracting the attention of every maid in the compound.
After this incident, another item was added to my wardrobe, a sort of sleeve which went over my arms when they were crossed in front of my breast, covering them completely. This looked elegant enough, but what a casual observer could not see was that underneath the hanging cloth, my forearms were bound together in a laced sleeve, making use of my hands impossible. This was initially instituted for walking in the courtyard only, but gradually I was expected to wear it inside as well, sometimes for an entire afternoon, greatly hampering my precious free time, restricting my allowed feminine pursuits. And, as the weather grew colder, a new and even more cumbersome item was added. This was a kind of all-encompassing veil that left only my face free and from October to April was decreed mandatory outdoors.
About a month after my captivity began, a new figure entered the household. She was introduced as Mi-So and she was extremely beautiful yet also North Korean like all the other servants. What shocked me was that she dressed in sumptuous gowns just like me and had her hair done in the eoyeo meori style as I did. Unlike the other servants, she joined dad and me at dinner, sitting like really close to him, and afterwards she would play the traditional gayageum exquisitely well or even dance for us. I was in awe of her.
After a couple of days, I saw her sitting in the women’s courtyard alone and so slowly, gracefully, I approached her. Unlike the other servants, she was happy to talk to me. She told me that she was a gisaeng and when I expressed ignorance at the term, she explained that it is like the Japanese geisha, something of a cross between a courtesan and an artiste. She explained that she came from Pyongyang originally and because of her musical talents and expertise at dance, she had been sent to the premier school in the North Korean capital where girls are trained in such things to the highest standard, called a gwonbeong. She had expected, as all the girls in her class did, to graduate and go on to serve the Motherland either in an artistic troop or a teaching capacity, but then one day, some esteemed visitors from the Chongsanri Corporation had come to the school and watched the final year students put on a performance. Afterwards, five of the girls who had taken part were summoned to the Party Office and told that they had been chosen to serve the Motherland by becoming employees of Chongsanri and practising their arts in the decadent south. Although shocked at first, they had been assured that the Marshall wished this of them and that they would be well-paid which, Mi-So assured me, she was, although 90% of that money went straight to the state. And so she had come with four friends – deemed to be the prettiest of their year – and a busload of other Chongsanri employees, over the border near Kumgangsan and up to the mountain mansion complexes of the Chongsanri elite (it transpired that all of dad’s co-executives and their homes were situated within a few miles of each other, a veritable ministate of traditional values). This whole story fascinated me, and I was glad to be able to share my lonely life with someone, although I now felt uncomfortable in the evenings as my father would openly fondle Mi-So, pushing his hand under her jeogori and slapping her bottom whilst she would kiss him passionately on the mouth.
Indeed, as time progressed, it became de rigueur for me to be dismissed straight after dinner, though this did not always save me from the gag.
My heart trembled with excitement as my maid assembled my new hairstyle. In view of the auspicious occasion, it had been decreed that I would wear the tteoguji meori style, which is even more elaborate and difficult to wear than the eoyeo meori as it involves adding to that style an enormous black wooden ornament, the tteoguji, which is fastened to the hair by means of pins and ribbons. Even this added encumbrance I did not mind however… for my brother was coming home!
I minced towards the main chamber in a purple hanbok which I had to admit was nice, arms bound in front of me as was becoming more and more common, excited to see my brother and make him aware of my plight. The door was opened for me to reveal him seated already for dinner with dad and, to my surprise, Mi-So and another gisaeng who had her gloved hand resting on his thigh. Furthermore, he was already dressed in a traditional male hanbok. This did not look good, I thought to myself.
We ate making only small talk, Gyu complimenting me on my beauty and dad saying how much I had changed for the better. I scrutinised his face for clues to the anger I wanted to see, but he remained impassive. And then, after dinner, I was dismissed, leaving the two men alone with their gisaeng.
The following day though, I got my chance. He came to the women’s quarters, walking through the forbidden door like it was nothing, and asked that I be excused from lessons to walk around the courtyard with him. As he was a man, this was not refused.
As soon as we were alone I began pouring my heart out to him and warning him of the dangers to both of our futures. To my surprise – and dismay – though, he merely frowned and replied, “Beo-Jin, what you say is wrong. I can understand how hard this is for you, I really can; after all I was an American high school student myself only a few weeks ago, but what choice do we have? Dad controls all the money and to disobey him would be to cut ourselves off from our future. And besides, what’s so wrong with this whole traditional thing anyway? Why should we Koreans forever be aping the Americans? We were wrong you know, to try to be like them; we’ve got an ancient culture of our own that’s rich and…”
I wanted to slap him across the face, bring him to his senses, but my arms were laced together pretty securely. “Gyu, come on man! You’re sounding like him now! Look at us in these ridiculous clothes, like we’re in some costume drama or something. It’s a fucking joke and not a funny one. And you don’t even understand, I’ve got some sort of sensor implanted in me that shocks me when I wander off! I’m a prisoner here and all I can do is fucking recite lines, paint random shit, and strut around this fucking courtyard. Help me, bro, this is hell!”
“Beo-Jin, you always were too rebellious. What’s wrong with you being feminine for once in a while. And besides, I like this life. Back in the States I was too geeky, none of the girls looked at me yet here I’ve got Mun-Ju who is hot as anything and what we did last night…”
“You mean, you accept it because dad gave you a gisaeng slave to fuck!”
“Not just one, he’s promised another and he’s shown me the girl I’ll be marrying; she’s a total babe… in a Joseon Era kind of way of course.”
“Yeah, President Kyon Yong-Byok’s youngest daughter. She’s fifteen now so it won’t be for a year or so but the engagement is official and in the meantime there’s Mun-Ju and…”
“I can’t believe you, Gyu! You’d sacrifice your own sister for the sake of your dick! Help me here bro, I need to get out of here! I have to leave, Gyu, or I’ll go mad!”
“Well, relax then sis, because you will be leaving. Dad arranged it this afternoon.”
“What do you mean? How?”
“Why do you think I’m here, Beo-Jin? Me and dad celebrated your engagement this morning. On the fifteenth of next month you’ll be getting married to Kyon Yong-Byok’s son and heir, Yong-Gon.”
The day before my wedding my life changed forever. For most people it is on the day on the actual wedding but for me it was the day before. Because on that day my father did something to me, something so cruel, so inhumane, so… words fail me, even today.
I had received all the pre-wedding indoctrination of course. Hour after hour of it, going through every detail of the ceremony, how I should behave and what would happen to me. But one thing above all was stressed over everything else. “Silence is regarded as a wife’s first duty. During the whole of the marriage day the bride must be as mute as a statue. If she says a word or even makes a sign she becomes an object of ridicule, and her silence must remain unbroken even in her own room.” My tutor had repeated those words over and over again until my head rang with them. Of course, I did not intend to obey. In fact, inwardly I smiled. This was my chance, and seriously, like, low-hanging fruit! I didn’t want to get married and I hated my dad for how he had ruined my life, and this was to be my revenge: silent! You could forget it! I would be as loud, rude, obnoxious and unfeminine as a girl possibly can be when dressed in an elaborate outfit with a ridiculous hairstyle. And as for the electric shocks, well, would they dare to use them in public? Of course not. That would reveal I was being held against my will! This was my moment!
That evening after dinner I asked my father if I could go back to my room, thinking of painting a picture, as these days that was the best option to kill the time. However, waiting for me there was a stranger whom I had never seen before. She had the white coat of a nurse and she looked pretty serious. “What is this?” I asked in surprise.
“Oh, nothing to worry about,” she replied as my maid grabbed hold of me from behind and a needle was plunged into one of my bound arms.
I awoke soon afterwards and found that barely an hour had passed. I was just lying on my bed still clothed. I sat up. Nothing seemed to have changed. They had not disrobed me or done anything immediately apparent. So, what had happened? I rang for the maid and she entered immediately. “What was that all about?” I demanded angrily.
Except that the words did not come out of my mouth. Nothing did. Air flowing without a sound.
I shouted, and I screamed, I called her the bitch she was, but silence reigned. “You have been muted, mistress,” explained the maid. “It is your father’s wedding gift to you, a means of helping you stay honourable during the ceremony. He told me to tell you that it is the latest Chongsanri invention, and a brilliant example of how technology can help us women lead a proper, traditional lifestyle.” Then her expression hardened, and her tone changed. “He also instructed me to warn you that, if you try any funny business during the ceremony, the same can be done with your hearing.”
I sank to the floor in shock, testing myself, hoping even a hum would escape my throat, but there was nothing.
Late that night my father, brother, and I sacrificed before the ancestral tablets, and acquainted our ancestors with the event which was to occur on the morrow. It all passed by like a dream, no, definitely a nightmare.
When the auspicious day arrived, an hour before noon, my bridegroom on horseback, and in court dress, left his father’s house accompanied by two men who walked before him, one carrying a white umbrella, and the other, who was dressed in red cloth, carrying a goose, which is the emblem of conjugal fidelity. He was also attended by several men carrying unlit red silk lanterns, by various servants, and by his father. Upon reaching our house he took the goose from the hands of the man in red, went into the house, and laid it upon a table.
I record all of this but I did not witness it. My maid and the other servants informed me enthusiastically, concentrating on the symbolism of each item. Later, when I learnt that fidelity in a Korean marriage is only ever expected of the woman, the goose seemed particularly ironic.
I heard but not witnessed this because of how I was dressed. That I wore an extremely cumbersome hanbok with a sleeve that immobilised my arms is not worth mentioning, nor too a ridiculous elaborate and heavy hairstyle, a variant on the tteoguji meori style. Such things I expected by this stage. What I did not expect was the make-up.
For a traditional Korean wedding, the bride’s face is covered with a thick layer of white powder, patched with spots of red. When they had finished I looked like one of those Japanese geisha in the films. That, however, was not all: after they had done my face, they moved onto the eyes. Surprisingly, no eye make-up was done but instead an adhesive compound was applied to my eyelids which were then glued together, after which the white powder was smeared over them too.
I went through the entire ceremony blind, unable even to open my eyes!
I was led out by two attendants to the room where the ceremony was to take place and then instructed to bow twice to my “lord”, after which he bowed four times to me. This alone made the marriage valid. A cup of wine was then given to my bridegroom, who drank a little, after which it was handed to my maid, who gave me a sip.
And that was it. Afterwards within the house, my now-husband and the other men were served an elaborate feast, but I merely retired to the women’s rooms. He rejoiced with his friends in the men’s apartments but we women got no simultaneous banquet.
Then, during the afternoon my husband returned to his father’s house, and after a time I, still bundled up in a mass of wedding clothes, and with my eyelids still sealed, attended by the two maids, some hired girls, and men with lanterns, went there too, in a rigidly closed chair, in the gay decorations of which red predominates. I was received by my father and mother-in-law, to whom the maid instructed me to bow four times. Then I was taken upstairs to the wedding chamber where I was disrobed completely, my hairstyle dismantled and the powder washed from my face and my body showered. The eyelid adhesive however, stayed. I was then taken to the bed and my wrists chained to the posts and there I waited.
I did not wait long. My unseen husband came and took me with vigour. It was my first experience of lovemaking and, after the initial pain, one of the most intense. Perhaps it was because I didn’t even know what this man who was inside of me looked like, or perhaps it was because I was so silent and passive, so in his control. Perhaps it was because I had not been able to get myself off in months. I cannot say. That though, was my wedding night.
I woke up to my husband climbing on top of me again. During the night the eyelid adhesive had worn off (I later learnt that it was designed – by Chongsanri – to last for twelve hours maximum) and so this time I saw who was inserting himself into me. The good news is that he was passably handsome.
The bad news though, far outweighed the good. After he had finished and removed himself from me, he untied me from the bed and helped me to sit up. Then he explained my future.
“Like your father and my father, I too believe in a traditional lifestyle, augmented by modern technology, of course” he began. “Unlike them, I doubt it will lead to the rejuvenation of the nation or any other similar claptrap. I guess you could say that your new husband is a bit more cynical although, on second thoughts, I guess you can’t say anything.” He laughed at this cruel joke and I immediately decided that I hated the man I had been married to.
“Your life from now on will be simple. You are my wife and that is your whole purpose in life from this moment forward. Your former name will no longer be used. In accordance with tradition, people will refer to you as ‘the wife of Kwon Yong-Gon’. I, on the other hand, shall refer to you as ‘Look here!’ (Yabu). Apparently, this was the norm in traditional Korean society because your duty is to look to me when I call. Without fault, do you hear? Nod. Ok good. After that your duties include remaining chaste and silent (no issues there I’m sure, ha, ha!), and to provide me with offspring so as to continue the respected Kwon family line. That means sex, of course, and you’ll be glad to know that I love sex. Indeed, one could almost say that I am addicted to it and so we’ll be having a lot of it. Your duty is always to accept my advances, whatever your own feelings. As you can clearly see, a Korean wife has clearly recognised duties to her husband, but just so you know, he has few, if any, to her. I will always treat you with respect in public, for you are mine and so to disrespect you brings shame on me. Furthermore, you will want for nothing. However, as was the norm in Joseon Era society – and this is why I love the traditional ideal so much – whilst I demand chastity and fidelity from you, you may not demand it of me. I keep gisaeng in this house and you must welcome them and show them respect. I do not look for affection in marriage, but who knows, maybe we shall find it? You are certainly prettier than I expected, and, despite your natural inexperience, I enjoyed last night and this morning.”
He paused as if to take stock and noticed my confused expression. “Yabu, you wonder why I say all this to you?” It wasn’t my main question but I nodded. “I guess I have a streak of sadism in me. Like you, I have lived in the west and learnt from it. Feminism, yada yada. I feel for your plight, the silence, ridiculous clothes and hair, lack of freedom and everything, but at the same time it turns me on. That is how I am, Yabu. Your duty is to submit, however distasteful that might be.”
Disgusted with his callousness, I yelled nothing, shook my head, and pummelled him with my unbound fists in an act of pathetic resistance. He laughed and took my weak wrists in his hands. “Such disobedience should be punished and I can’t wait to land a slap on that beautiful rounded bottom of yours!” he exclaimed. I tried to back away and he laughed again. “Not now, Yabu, not in our wedding bed.” He paused again and then reached forward, grabbed me and forced my face to his, kissing me with gusto, exploring my mouth with his tongue. I tried to bite down but he was too quick and, strangely, although he angered me, his actions excited me too. “By God Yabu, you turn me on!” he declared, when he finally extracted himself from me. He put his left arm round me and started to explore my body with his right hand, squeezing my breasts and stroking the bottom that he had just praised. Handled against my will, hating my body’s instincts, I began to desire him.
“Hmm, Yabu, I think you and I will enjoy each other as well as hate each other. However, that is for later. I must say, you are much better than I thought you would be – and far better naked than in that awful bridal outfit – but there are still areas of concern. These tits for starters! Pert, yes, but way too small for my tastes. I was in the west a long time, you know.” I began to hate him again and my desire faded slightly. “Not very Korean I know, wanting big tits; my father would not be impressed, but I cannot change how I am and you are mine, Yabu, to do what I want with. However, before that, I need to explain some things to you.”
This guy needed the same procedure I had, I thought to myself. I wanted to ask him what he meant by doing what he wanted with, but, mute as I was – and still am – I could not.
“You know your duties as a wife and you know how you will live – much as you did with your father, in predetermined spaces and roles, yes. However, what you do not know is how I operate my household. I studied Psychology at uni – can’t you tell? – and I guess I am a bit of a disciple of Skinner. Hmm, Yabu, your confused look suggests that you don’t know who he was? Well, he believed in a theory of reward and punishment to motivate people and so that is what I shall institute here. I demand sex from you whenever I want it, but what I cannot demand is your enjoyment or the quality of sex that I am accustomed to. Therefore, it is up to you. If you please me sufficiently, I shall reward you. If you fail in your duties, I shall punish you. I believe that your father already instituted a paddling regime; good man. Personally though, I prefer to smack a rounded bottom with my own hand. Your punches earlier, they warrant a smack or two for example. Punishment alone though, does not work.
“Yabu, every day you will dress in full hanbok and eoyeo meori hairstyle as in your father’s house. Here however, you will also wear the arm sleeve as a matter of course. That is to say, silent as you are, denied of the use of your arms, you shall be largely unable to communicate. Your maid will feed you and attend to your toilette. However, if you please me, the sleeve will be removed. For example, a satisfactory morning blowjob will result in three hours without the sleeve in a single day. This can enable you to write a letter, paint a picture, or engage in conversation with another female. Enthusiasm during vaginal intercourse could result in a different reward, say the use of the neolttwigi for an hour.”
He saw my confused look and stopped. “Yabu, do you not know what is neolttwigi?” I shook my head.
“Neolttwigi is our traditional Korean see-saw. Yangban women developed it as a way of seeing beyond the walls of their houses. You will never be allowed out of the house save in a closed carriage so, if you want to see something of the beautiful forests that surround this mansion, neolttwigi is your only option as when you jump up high, you can see beyond the wall. It will also help keep you fit, important considering your sedentary lifestyle.”
I could see his sadistic enjoyment in delivering this monologue, yet despite this, I was cautiously excited at the prospect of neolttwigi. Even the tiny freedom of being able to glimpse the outside world seemed so precious to me now! Even if it was only the other compounds of the Chongsanri settlement.
“There are other benefits of course; huge ones for anal intercourse and other subversive pleasures, but you don’t need the details now. I shall provide a full list when you are ready. For now though, why not try earning your first reward?”
And as he said those words he moved me close to him and playfully slapped my arse. “And there’s the punishment for the punches,” he said, causing my subconscious desire to heighten once again. When we had finished we lay together exhausted and he called for tea.
Seconds later I had blacked out again.
I awoke on the bed, naked but unrestrained. I moved my hands to my chest, remembering his words and half-guessing what had happened. Sure enough, where my A-cups had once sat, two sizeable and extremely fake mounds were now to be found.
I felt different down below too. I moved my fingers lower and discovered why. My sex was sealed off with a chastity belt, one with attachment rings for clipping my nighttime gloves to. It was made of polished silver and covered me like a pair of underpants. As I shifted my body I felt that it did more than just cover my holes, which had been off-limits for quite some time. Inside two rods now filled me, teasing me, making me ache from being stretched like this.
I got up and went to the mirror. The face that stared back at me was my own but subtly different. Now the nose was more of a button and the lips more like a full rosebud. He had changed me, improved me, created the perfect Korean doll wife.
I stared at that image for a long time, angry and traumatised but unable to resist what had been done to me.
And so, my married life began. Was it better or worse than life with my father? That is hard to say. It was different.
The biggest thing was the sex. I enjoyed it, I really did. I hated my husband and yet, at the same time, I desired him. Perhaps because this was the only time that I had power and control over my destiny, because with the sex came rewards.
Without the rewards, life was harsh. No use of my hands whatsoever and no voice meant that I was incommunicado, a mere elegant ornament to the household, fit only to be ignored. But if I gave him a blowjob I could indulge in a painting, or if I pleasured him sufficiently during normal sex, I could jump on the neolttwigi with one or two maids on the other end, for a precious moment or two I could soar into the air and glimpse the trees and the beautiful mountain slopes. And if I submitted to the painful ecstasy of anal intercourse then…
I get ahead of myself. First, I need to introduce Jong-Suk. When I saw her on my first day of marriage I hated her. She was my rival, the primary gisaeng that my husband sought pleasure in. She was impossibly beautiful and, when she started to play and sing, impossibly talented. I could never sing now, never again. Oh, how I hated her!
Yet, at the same time, she did not hate me. And in my lonely world, I needed a friend and she was the only one to be had. We would talk with my writing messages for her on paper using an inkbrush and her speaking the replies. And we would sit together and she would hold me and then brush her lips against mine and whisper bedroom secrets of how to bring Yong-Gon to ecstasy.
In short, I fell in love.
And Yong-Gon knew it.
“Yabu, the reward for anal intercourse is Jong-Suk.”
I happily submitted.
And the day after, my bottom hole still throbbing, I was allowed to retire early and she would lie with me. I was restrained, of course, with chastity belt, gloves, and ankles tied, but she was not and she would explore my bare skin with her hands, whilst her tongue explored my mouth and I gasped silently in ecstasy.
And my husband watched on through a peephole, with another gisaeng bringing him to fulfilment with her mouth.
And that was that, save for when, after only a few months, I fell pregnant. Nine months later, my son was born and my husband named him Ju-Hwan. He was the love and light of my life and I treasured holding him and feeding him.
Several months after his birth, I was pregnant again. By this time my husband had acquired two more gisaeng.
And so my life has continued. Restricted and silent, a songless bird in a gilded cage. I have my pleasure – both in the bedroom and in the seven children that have resulted from it – and I have my pain, but it is a life. Like countless generations of Korean women before, I have grown accustomed to it. I no longer even see the doors which would have once brought me pain. It is our tradition, these are our customs. I am Yabu, nothing more. Yes, Yong-Gon?
Thirty years later
And now I shall take over the narrative. In the months running up to her fortieth birthday, I ordered my wife to write down the story of her remarkable life. By that time, her rebellious spirit had been quelled long ago, and she assented to my every wish. And besides, it meant time with her hands free being able to communicate with others. She enjoyed it immensely. I am a just man.
I wanted her to write it all down as an historical record of the start of our movement of national rejuvenation. Well, that was the reason I gave officially. Unofficially, as I told her myself during the first morning of our marriage, I am a sadist with a high libido and tales of female suffering turn me on.
That is why I asked her to do it, but why I ordered her to do it then was for quite a different reason: after her fortieth birthday she would no longer be able to do such things.
Yabu was pretty. I don’t think she ever realised just how pretty she was. As hot as any of the gisaeng I’ve had and, believe me, I’ve had a few. My latest, the delectable little Mi-Kyung is nestled beside me as I type this in fact. But even the prettiest of women fade with the years and the fact that I used her as a breeding machine for the Kyon clan, forcing seven babies out of her, means that she faded faster than most.
And I cannot do with a faded woman.
But traditional Korean society is strict about many things. Most of the rules suit me, but one that doesn’t is that about monogamy: once a man has married, he may not marry again, even if he has disowned her. And Yabii gave me no reason to do that, no reason at all, so we are attached to one another until death do us part.
Thankfully, Chongsanri has an answer for that too, and after Yabu’s fortieth birthday, the age when she is declared past childbearing age, I instituted it.
That evening I slept with her for one last time and then put her to sleep using the same tea draught that I had used when we first wed. This time though, I was doing more than just pump up her tits again.
Once out cold, she was transported to the Chongsanri medical facility in the heart of our little community up here in the mountains and there her transformation began. Her hair was shaved off completely and her head laser treated to stop any future hair growth. Similar treatment was conducted on her brows and lashes. Then the object was produced.
Back on that first hospital visit, over twenty years earlier, as well as pumping up her tits and lips, I’d had a cast done of her virginal young face. That had been saved, entered into the Chongsanri database and then, this year, reproduced as the mask of a hood which was designed to encase her ageing head until the day she died. Carefully it was fitted, an intrusion going into her mouth and a tube down into her stomach to feed her. Tubes also went up her nostrils and then lenses were placed over her eyes with only a pinhole in the centre to allow limited sight. The whole thing was made of a new plastic compound that stays flexible (to a degree) and allows the skin underneath to breathe. Developed by Chongsanri of course. Similar treatment was also meted out to her hands and arms, although the new covers kept the hands rigid. She would never use them again.
She panicked when she awoke three days later but, unable to do anything for herself, and unable to deny my will anymore, though she hadn’t tried in many years, she slowly got over it. Today, as before, she is still dressed in the most sumptuous hanboks, her hair styled in the most elaborate Joseon Era styles, but she is now permanently and completely incommunicado. She barely sees, cannot turn her head or use her hands.
Nor too can she have sex. I had her pleasure nub and inner petals taken away and then had her vaginal opening closed permanently with just a small hole for wastes. On top of this I refitted her chastity belt, this time with nothing to fill her, the key for which is embedded in a prism of glass on my desk at work. The president’s desk, which is back in Seoul. After all, what use does a forty-year old woman have with such things? Now those parts will only be used for their essential tasks, and whatever is communicated to the implant of course.
But although she is forty, she does not look it. Instead, my darling wife, my Yabu, is forever seventeen, the blushing bride who was married to me all those years ago. These days she has no life of her own. Instead she stands or sits in my room as an elegant ornament, a dutiful and submissive accessory to my wealth and status. I often gaze upon her staring mindlessly into space whilst Mi-Kyung or some other gisaeng sucks me off to ecstasy.
There is a lot to be said for tradition, you know.