One year has passed since the law banning the sex trade was enacted. According to police statistics, the number of prostitutes and places engaged in the sex trade have decreased, but the number of male customers has increased. Many well-known places where brothels were concentrated are now out of business and there is no more soliciting by streetwalkers. But an even bigger effect than such outward changes in the trade since the enactment of the law is that nightlife in our country, which often ended with paid sex, has been disappearing. A new consensus that sex trade is a crime has been emerging.
But the trade has not disappeared ― some of it has simply gone underground to evade police enforcement. There are signs that new forms of the sex trade are going to flourish. It has been reported that some waitresses in bars and night clubs still prostitute themselves and they sometimes travel long distances to provide sex and massages. There are even cases where female employees of entertainment places travel overseas with customers for sex and sightseeing. However strictly the law may be enforced, it is impossible to eradicate prostitution quickly or completely; the business has not been called "the world's oldest profession" for nothing. Changing customs and culture takes a long time. What is important is to change the perceptions of the people through education; that can't be accomplished by the enactment of a law. First of all, plans to help prostitutes and brothel owners reform are very important. There should be sufficient government support to help sex workers find a new way of living. This year's budget for the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family for sex trade prevention is only 21 billion won ($20 million). This is a far cry from the amount needed to help the number of women in the sex trade to find respectable jobs.
Another problem is that the government support is concentrated in places where there are a large number of brothels, and many smaller areas are left unaffected. Proper support for new jobs, medical care, legal services and rehabilitation education should be provided. Many former prostitutes have returned to their old work because of this lack of support. Brothels must also be converted to other businesses.
There is a limit to regulation and punishment. The government must draw up an effective plan to induce women in the sex business to find a new way of life.
September 21, 2005