Despite serious anti-sex trafficking laws, South Korea continues to have a serious sex trafficking problem.
And while sex trafficking is almost always referred to as a ‘serious problem’ everywhere, these stats will make you take notice:
- “The South Korean government’s Ministry for Gender Equality estimates that about 500,000 women work in the national sex industry, though, according to the Korean Feminist Association, the actual number may exceed 1 million.”
- “If that estimate is closer to the truth, it would mean that 1 out of every 25 women in the country is selling her body for sex…”
- “Al-Jazeera reported that some 200,000 South Korean youths run away from home annually, with many of them descending into the sex trade, according to a report by Seoul’s municipal government.”
- “For women between the ages of 15 and 29, up to one-fifth have worked in the sex industry at one time or another, according to estimates.”
- “A separate survey suggested that half of female runaways become prostitutes.”
- “South Koreans are the biggest customers of the child sex industry in the region.”
- “South Korean girls and women have been trafficked to Japan, the U.S. and as far away as Western Europe.”
- “According to the government-run Korean Institute of Criminology, one-fifth of men in their 20s buy sex at least four times a month, creating an endless customer base for prostitutes.”
(These are quotes pulled by an amazing article from the International Business Times, “South Korea: A Thriving Sex Industry In A Powerful, Wealthy Super-State.”
Changing the South Korean Culture with Education
It’s interesting to see how anti-sex trafficking laws are not enough to stop sex trafficking. In fact, legislation hasn’t even curbed the problem.
Establishing anti-trafficking laws is a great idea and needs to be done, but there’s more work to be done in South Korea.
The biggest being education.
A runaway told Al-Jazeera that.,
“No one ever told me it was wrong to prostitute myself, including my schoolteachers.”
Again, we see prostitution raising its ugly head.
We see how education can be the first step in fighting the cultural perception of selling your body for sex. It’s not only a South Korean business practice, but a historic one as well. United State G.I.’s were involved in it and Japan violated South Korea’s women during Tokyo’s occupation. South Korea’s women have seen generation after generation of sexual exploitation. These are deep cultural roots that will need love, care and education for both women and men.
So while increasing penalties for prostitution and pimping in South Korea is all well and good—and should continue—it isn’t until the culture changes that we will begin to see a greater surge against sex trafficking in South Korea.
This connection between sex trafficking and culture can also be said for other cultures and countries. That is why it isn’t just enough to sign a petition and pass a law to end sex trafficking. We must become vigilant in voicing our opposition to the oversexualization and abuse of women—everywhere.