중앙데일리

Korea's sex industry is major money earner

Feb 06,2003
Korea's sex industry generated 26 trillion won ($22 billion) in profits last year and employed about 260,000 women, including foreigners, a recent government survey found.

The Ministry of Gender Equality surveyed 5,600 karaoke clubs, hostess bars, massage parlors and night clubs in major cities across the country last year.

The profits from the sex industry made up 5 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product last year, making it larger than the agricultural and fisheries industry, which earned 24 trillion won in profits in 2002.

The survey found that 1 out of 25 women in Korea between the ages of 20 and 34 work in the sex industry, a number comparable to the 290,000 women of the same age group who worked in factory jobs in 2000, according to the Korea National Statistical Office.

"There were only 7,000 women who worked in traditional brothels," said a ministry aide who participated in the survey. "The number is less than 2 percent of the women in the Korean sex industry. Future government policies on the sex industry should focus on 'industrial prostitution' such as prostitutes who work in bars, cafes and massage parlors, while offering sex as an additional service."

Women who work independently were excluded from the survey. "If we include call girls, the number of women engaged in prostitution would exceed 500,000," a ministry official said.

According to reports by women's groups and the Korea Women's Development Institute, the scale of the Korean sex industry is far larger than the ministry is admitting.

Estimates by private groups of the number of women working in the sex industry have ranged in recent years from 514,000 to 1.2 million. "Saeumteo," a women's group in Seoul, said at least 7,096 women work in 1,442 sex-related businesses in Gyeonggi province alone.

"Now that we have these data, we hope to see the Gender Ministry come up with policies that bring harsher punishment for those charged in prostitution cases," said Park Sook-ja an adviser on women's issues at the National Assembly.


by Moon Kyung-ran


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