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Should Korea legalize prostitution? By John. Power Published : Jun 29, - Updated : Jun 29, - With the industry strong despite police crackdowns The sex trade in Korea Despite its illegality, the prostitution industry in South Korea is widespread and lucrative. Estimates vary wildly, but approximately 1.
Before two laws were passed in criminalizing the buying and selling of sex, some estimates put the GDP figure at greater than 4 percent. Police crackdowns have targeted brothels in some of the most conspicuous red-light districts, but the buying and selling of sex continues in room salons, massage parlors, coffee shops and karaoke rooms across the country.
Crackdowns on the industry have not been greeted with enthusiasm by all, either. Hundreds of prostitutes and brother owners in Seoul and Chuncheon recently took to the streets to protest against crackdowns, calling them attacks on their livelihood.
Under the current law, prostitutes and patrons are liable to up to one year in prison or a 3 million won fine, with much longer jail terms and bigger fines on the books for brothel owners and brokers. Sex workers demonstrate against police crackdowns in Seoul last month. I argue that prostitution should be legalized state regulation or decriminalized neither legal nor illegal for two main reasons.
It is unpopular in rhetoric but quite popular in reality. Visiting a prostitute is said to be a rite of passage for young Korean men and part of a night out for many Korean businessmen. That is similar to the amount the Korean government spent on education that year and half of what it spent on defense. Despite denunciations, crackdowns, public humiliation, arrests and punishment, prostitution remains quite popular here. Criminalization means that people who have decided it is their best alternative among currently available options are condemned to dealing with criminal organizations, violent patrons, crooked cops and, perhaps, rough IMF presidents.