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[VIEWPOINT]Second thoughts on paid sex

Oct 17,2004
The Medieval period called “the Dark Ages” adopted a theocratic system that focused on God-centered thinking. Naturally, even human instinct was thoroughly suppressed by religious moralism codified in the law. The first places that the God-centered society got rid of were theaters and bathhouses. Religious leaders believed that bathhouses and theaters caused a decay of public morals. In reality, bathhouses that allowed men and women to bathe together, and theaters at that time that staged plays with immoral themes, including “King Oedipus,” were the birthplaces of corrupt culture. Public bathhouses disappeared and churches began to replace the deviant culture of theaters. But even this solemn moralistic society couldn’t put a stop to the “sexual deviancy” of human instinct.
When the outlets were closed, society came to experience the insanity of abnormal behavior and deviancy such as a series of murders, rapes and witch-hunting during the dark medieval ages. This was a case where religion and morality excessively intervened in the law.
On the contrary, the recent controversy over the implementation of a new law on prostitution seems to be a case where the law excessively intervened in personal morality, except for the rightful aspect that the law aims to curb the sex trade and trafficking in women forced by the owners of brothels.
This law stirred up controversy in our society before we ask if the excessive intervention of the law in morality is right.
First of all, some bluntly ask why the law should be enforced now, of all times, when the economy is very weak. They argue that given the sex market size of about 24 trillion won ($20.8 billion), not only the livelihood of the women in the business who have no other livelihoods will be in trouble, but also the economic repercussions on our shrunken domestic market will be huge.
Second, others argue that when the outlets for men’s physiological instinct, that is, the social sewers of evil necessity, are blocked, their desire will eventually find its way to abnormal exits. Their logic is that society will become more atrocious and sexual crimes will spread widely.
Third, still others contend that although women who sell sex, the objects of punishment, are victims of a society which could not create decent jobs, most men who buy sex are those who are totally ignored and socially weak with little money. From the aspect that money is power, today’s reality is that sex is available to men with power whenever they want it under the pretense of romance. On the other hand, they say, blocking the outlets of sexual release of those men alienated from power, including bachelors who can’t get married in the rural areas or those who are ugly or disabled, is a measure that produces another inequality.
Women’s groups, however, rebut those arguments from a male-dominated society, and some people use more or less far-fetched logic to weaken the will of the law to eradicate the dirty business called the “sex trade” from this land.
Still, I question if the law should intervene in matters of personal ethics and morality even if the law takes firm measures against “forced sex” and evil owners of brothels. The widespread tendency toward having a sex trade in our society has complex social causes, going beyond the problem of individuals who sell and buy sex. A distorted economic structure, the rapid disintegration of social ethics and the difference of biological instinct between men and women have contributed to degrading sex, which should be beautiful, into a product in the market that people can sell and buy.
Therefore, my opinion is that before enforcement of the law, jobs should be provided for people in the sex business and sound social education about sexual ethics should come first. If moral matters are handled by force with the sword of the law, the moment may come earlier when control by the law is impossible, as was the case in medieval society.
The senior policewoman Kim Gang-ja said, “The implementation of the law by force will only trigger shady deals, like the effect of a water balloon.” In this sense, didn’t her remarks predict the end of a law that intervenes in morality?

* The writer is a playwright and the president of Gyeonggi Arts Center. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.


by Hong Sa-jong


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