Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Debts Still Haunt Former Sex Workers

Crackdown on Sex Trade Produces Tangible Results
Korea Times
09-20-2005 19:00
By Chung Ah-young
Staff Reporter

A 29-year-old woman identified as Lim, a sex worker since her youth, was kicked out of her ``workplace’’ after the brothel was shut down as a result of a crackdown following last year’s passage of an anti-prostitution law.

About 600 sex workers and brothel owners stage a street rally in Wanwol-dong, in the southeastern port city of Pusan, in this file photo. They protested against a crackdown on the sex trade after the anti-prostitution law took effect on Sept. 23, 2004. / Korea Times
She ended up working again in a room salon in a red-light district to pay off debts owed to the former brothel owners because she had no other job skills.

The anti-prostitution law went into effect on Sept. 23, 2004.

According to the National Police Agency (NPA), the number of brothels has been reduced by 36.8 percent from 1,679 before the law’s implementation to 1,061 on Sept. 15.

The number of sex workers has decreased by 52.3 percent from 5,567 to 2,653 during the same period.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family provides about 400,000 won a month for six months to help support female sex workers who quit the sex trade.

However, mounting debts still haunt former sex workers even after they quit prostitution.

According to the Support Center for Victims of Sex Trafficking based in Seoul, 43.5 percent, or 2,666 women in the sex trade out of a total of 5,249 cases have debts resulting from advanced payment.

The center recently released the survey results based on the cases reported for the year since the anti-prostitution law took effect.

The survey shows that 26.2 percent of female sex trade workers have sought help regarding problems caused by quitting their job.

Sex workers have been found to suffer from threats, sexually transmitted diseases, family problems, violence and unwanted pregnancies after they get out of the sex industry, according to the survey.

The survey shows that 59.5 percent of ex-sex workers who report to the center have been found to solicit prostitution in Seoul, with the next highest percentage working in Kyonggi Province.

About 43.5 percent of prostitutes worked in such places as hostess bars in red-light districts, while 32.6 percent were found in brothels.

However, the number of sex traders working through cyberspace reported to the center sharply increased from 29 in the previous year to 60 since the crackdown.

``After consulting with female sex trade victims, we found that sex trading continues to occur through cyberspace and places other than brothels, even after the introduction of the anti-prostitution law,’’ a center official said.

``To help them get out of the sex trade industry, rehabilitation measures to empower them to live in society are desperately needed,’’ she said.

Cho Young-sook, director of the Korea Women’s Associations United (KWAU), said that the anti-prostitution law has paved the way for establishing a social standard to eradicate sex trading.

``We can expect the anti-prostitution law to bear more fruit soon. But stronger and more comprehensive measures are needed,’’ she said.

Cho Jin-kyoung, head of the Support Center for Victims of Sex Trafficking, said that the move to eradicate sex trading should continue in cooperation with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and other government agencies.

``Both the government and law enforcement agencies should step up their efforts to prevent and root out prostitution and other possible loopholes in sex trading operations conducted in a more sophisticated way,’’ she said.

The ministry, which initiated the anti-prostitution law, contends that it has contributed to improving men’s way of thinking about sex trading.

Under the law, the ministry has waged a wide range of campaigns, such as establishing support centers for female sex workers to get help.

The ministry said that it plans to set up an additional 11 support and consultation centers nationwide by the end of this year.

Chung Bong-hyup, director of the women’s rights promotion bureau of the ministry, said in a symposium that the anti-prostitution law has dramatically reduced the number of brothels and female sex workers.

During the symposium held in the southeastern port city of Pusan on Sept. 15, government officials and leaders of women’s groups called for additional measures to effectively crack down on the sex trade.

Chung said the nation has scored a better performance evaluation in international human rights improvement because of the new law.

``Our top priority in the prevention of prostitution is to strike a balance between prevention, elimination, punishment, rehabilitation and support. It will be more effective with the cooperation of provincial governments,’’ Chung said.

09-20-2005 19:00


Blogger Tim Halberg said...

This is a sad world. I look forward to seeing the documentary finalized for the world to see. Any word on when this might happen?

2:17 AM  

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