“Extracurricular”: Of human trafficking, morality and values

By Nur Sa’adah Batrisyia

Some mistakes can’t easily be erased.

A high school student abandoned by his gambler father and runs a prostitution ring where he arranges compensated dating* and offers protection or ‘insurance’ to teenage girls or in easier terms referred as ‘workers’. This so-called ‘insurance’ is needed to protect the workers from their lunatic customer. Sounds noble, but they charge unreasonable amounts for every damage done. Examples of damage can be in the form of weird fetishes to cut the workers’ bangs and slapping faces. 

This 10 episodes of Netflix Original Series offer you a story of high school students entangled in risky-sickening-conflicts that provoke their morality and human values. This jaw-dropping series can be a starter pack for you to explore the underworld of sex trafficking, gang, brothel*; prostitution world in general. 

Jisoo (Kim Dong-Hee) is a gifted and smart student. His records in school are clean from any flaws. Seeing this, his homeroom teacher suggests him to ‘cause some trouble’. Little did he know, this pure looking and socially awkward student had a dirty little secret. 

His stories begin with his ambition to pursue college and get a job but incapable of paying high-priced education expenses. To afford this, he needs to have 60 million won (around RM211,000) in hand within one year. Therefore, he creates an application functioning to escort girls who are interested in “compensated dating”. Based on Urban Dictionary, compensated dating can be defined as young girls going on a date with older men in exchange for money and gifts. Literally, compensated dating only revolved around providing companionship without any sexual intercourse, but, who knows what happened behind the doors? Bear in mind compensated dating is traditional forms of prostitution. 

Why are you risking your life to be with me? – Jisoo said to Gyuri.

Jisoo’s dirty business starts to heat up when his crush, Gyuri (Park Ju-Hyun), a bold and free-spirited girl, desperately forces him to let her join his illegal business. But, Gyuri comes from a rich family. Her family owns an entertainment company and she is expected to be the next successor. So what urged her to join Jisoo hassle and wicked business? Perhaps, based on my interpretation, it is to gain tons of money in a short period. Or perhaps, because her ego persona tells her she does not belong to this family. 

Honestly, as a viewer, I somehow pity Jisoo’s misery story with his dad. His dad is a gambler and a gambler loves to take a bet involving money while ridiculously believing the money might increase in return. Surprisingly,  Jisoo’s dad saw the money he saved and.. okay I’m not going to tell what happened. 

You might sympathise with Jisoo’s and Gyuri’s miserable stories and wish Jisoo can continue his business (ops, spoiler) but keep in mind, do not romanticise sex-trafficking! 

Moving on to sex-trafficking victim perspective, one of Jisoo’s classmates named Seo Min-Hee works directly with him but she never realised that he used robotic voice whenever they communicate via phone call. She needs money to support her boyfriend, however, she was tortured by a lunatic customer resulting in anxiety. When she figured out Jisoo is the one behind her miserable life, she wanted to report to the police but, he said this “I wanted to live like you guys, but I couldn’t. I didn’t have any bad intentions.” Wow, how could you say that to a traumatic victim?

“Extracurricular” has this intense and mind blowing aura, so, if you prefer to see light-comedic and sappy-love genre, I would not suggest you to add this series into your bucket list. Nonetheless, as a character-based plot movie, this movie would leave you in awe as you see how the characters going through emotional conflict, self-judgements, brutal incidents and life-threatening episodes. Plus, character-driven plots are well-known to leave viewers hanging because you could never predict what the characters might do in next episodes. 

You might wonder how we could relate to this high risk crime and sex violence. I would not insist you to connect with Jisoo’s stories but let’s put ourselves in his shoes. Facing insane pressure from his dad, friends and school, will we drop our ethics and do such a dirty job? You might say no but, how confident are you that you wouldn’t? 

On a bright side, this series stimulates viewers to seek help and reach out to others.
Source: Twitter

In my opinion, Malaysians should watch this movie as sex trafficking in our country is still quite vulnerable. Plus, taking into consideration Malaysia as a popular destination for migrants, those groups are exposed to become potential sex victims. Sad to say, but based on the U.S State Department 2014 report, Malaysia has failed to combat human trafficking, hence there is the risk among youth to involve with such similar stories like Jisoo and Gyuri. 

Click on this link to watch the trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aV_DBz2rKsI

Here is the elaboration for the terms used:
Compensated dating: A term generally used to describe young women going on dates with older men to gain money and gifts. But, this term was used interchangeably with prostitution because it is a ‘short-cut’ for men to enjoy sex and intimacy without undergoing hassle casual relationship. 
Brothel: A place where prostitutes work. Since it is hard to stay out of sight from authorities, they usually turn a karaoke place, club, studio, bars to a brothel during midnight. *** 

One Reply to ““Extracurricular”: Of human trafficking, morality and values”

  1. Amazing review! I watched the show and definitely blown my mind. Watching the show makes you question your stand, because it changes your point of view, usually a police would be a lead character in this type of storyline, instead the writer choose a villain to be the main lead. Exposing the viewers how we would accidentally romanticised what is obviously a horrendous crime because we feel bad at Jisoo (losing his money, his phone, his childhood history, etc). Justifying Jisoo’s action, “ah he needs money for school”, “if only gyuri didn’t interrupt with his business “, “If only Minhee listened and took one day off”. Those thoughts obviously walked through the viewers mind sometimes . But whatever it is, what’s wrong is wrong and Jisoo shall be punished because of his actions, no matter how sad his life story is.

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