중앙데일리

Sex workers camp out to protest crackdown

Dec 10,2004
Saying their livelihood is at stake, six sex workers are striking in front of the National Assembly in protest of stronger anti-prostitution measures introduced by the government.
The women - in dedication to their cause - say they have been living in a tent and drinking only a minimal amount of water and eating little food since Nov. 1.
Originally, 15 started participating in the strike but coldness and hunger drove some away.
About 30 prostitutes demonstrated Monday and Thursday in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade demanding that the government should stop persecuting them.
“We demanded to see the minister of Gender Equality but so far they are refusing to talk with us,” said Kim Moon-heui, representing the group.
An official with the Ministry of Gender Equality said that the minister met numerous times with prostitutes but failed to reach an agreement.
“We will not stop the crackdown,” said the official.
“The weather is getting colder and if the strike continues, public opinion could turn in a negative way and influence the crackdown,” said an official.
He also added that the government is currently trying to stop the prostitutes’ strike by talking to an influential person in the sex industry.
Under the newly introduced laws, those who have sex with a prostitute now face jail time of up to a year and fines of up to 3 million won ($2,631).
The crackdown, which occurred in force for about a month, resulted in empty red-light districts, room salons and massage parlors. Although prostitution has been illegal for decades in Korea, it’s believed to be a billion-dollar industry.
Police have charged about 4,300 prostitutes, pimps and customers so far in the crackdown and vow their efforts will continue.
Hundreds of prostitutes and business owners have rallied around the nation protesting the measure.
In addition, the Ministry of Gender Equality has set aside funding of 3.8 billion won ($3.3 million) to help women pay legal expenses, cover medical bills and obtain job training if they get out of the sex trade.


by Moon Kyung-ran, Brian Lee


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