Tuesday, September 20, 2005

One year crackdown on sex business shows fewer brothels, more customers

The Korea Herald
Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Results of a one year crackdown on the sex business were announced yesterday by the National Police Agency, showing a large decrease in the number of brothels and sex workers, but an increase in the number of sex clients, the majority of who are in their thirties and forties.

Over the past year, the number of brothels went down from 1,679 to 1,061, a 36.8 percent reduction, and the number of sex workers from 5,567 to 2,653, down 52.3 percent.

Around 16,260 people were arrested in this period, and of these 1,1474 were male brothel owners, pimps and sex clients and 4,786 were female sex workers. Of these women, 987 were excused from punishment by the provisions in the anti-prostitution laws that protect the human rights of women who have been forced into sex work against their free will.

A study of the arrests made in the past year showed that more men between the ages of 31 to 40 are seeking brothels, an increase from 28.9 percent to 33.4 percent. The number of men between aged 41 to 50 also increased from 17.6 to 18.4 percent, while the number of men between age 21 to 30 reduced from 35.5 to 32.8 percent.

"Most sex criminals are married and economically stable men in their thirties or forties, self-employed or in professional jobs. The reason for the high proportion of professional men involved in sex crimes is because of the distorted sex hospitality culture," said an official of the National Police Agency.

Despite the massive crackdown, the proportion of sex-related crimes in relation to total crime statistics remained at about 0.73 percent, which is constant from last year, according to police.

The anti-prostitution laws effective since September 2004 enforce stricter punishment on buyers and sellers of sex. Pimps and brothel owners may face up to 10 years in prison and pay up to 100 million won in fines, and sex buyers can be sentenced to 1 year imprisonment or pay fines of up to 3 million won.

Last year, the National Police Agency and the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family expressed their determination to "completely uproot prostitution" by enforcing punishments on brothel owners and pimps while protecting the human rights of women who are forced into becoming sex workers under extenuating circumstances. The law defines juveniles, drug addicts and those forced into sex trafficking by debts as victims.

Additionally, the law states that money earned by the sex workers and pimps will be confiscated, to prevent the recurrence of such crimes. The law also rewards money to people who inform authorities of sexual crimes, encouraging a social watch against prostitution.

A report announced by the Support Center for Victims of Sex Trafficking, a rehabilitation center, showed that of 5,249 women who consulted their center, 43.5 percent were forced into sex trafficking to pay back debts. About 26.2 percent of these women consulted the center in order to leave the brothels and start a new life, others did so because they were threatened, suffering from disease, had family problems, or have become single mothers.

52 percent of sex workers are between the ages of 20 to 24, and 30.4 percent are between age 25 to 29; 36.4 percent are high-school graduates, 28 percent have withdrawn from high school, 22.3 percent junior-high graduates and 6.1 percent are university degree candidates.


By Kwon Ji-young



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