Aide runs up white flag in red-light controversy
The minister of gender equality apologized yesterday for her organization’s decision to offer cash to people who vow not to visit prostitutes after year-end parties.
But the vow-takers might still be able to get gift certificates, said Jang Ha-jin, head of the ministry.
“It was wrong to offer cash as a gift and to regard all men as potential customers of prostitution,” she said, adding that she only learned of the campaign from newspaper accounts of the effort to collect chastity vows from company employees.
“The moment I read the newspapers, I wondered how a thing like this could happen,” Ms. Jang said. She added that the campaign had a small budget, so the decision was made by lower level officials.
The ministry ran the campaign from Dec. 6 through Tuesday, promising to give 1 million won ($1,074) to the company with highest number of employees making the vow, and a lesser amount of cash to the runner-up companies. The ministry promised a total of 3.6 million won in cash grants.
“The ministry has made a promise, so I’m considering offering gift certificates for cultural products instead of cash,” she said. The gift certificates could be used to buy movie tickets, books or other cultural products.
The campaign was criticized as a waste of money and, in a delicious twist, gender-insensitive. In response, Ms. Jang said, “It’s the same with the campaigns to keep traffic regulations. Everyone could potentially violate them.”
Kwon Yong-hyun, a director at the ministry, added that more women than men participated in the campaign, suggesting that some companies may have found a clever way to increase their participation.
The ministry on Tuesday had released a statement calling the campaign “timely.” It also claimed that many citizens applauded it.
Ms. Jang said she did not know about that statement either. “I disagree with it,” she said. “When you do something wrong, it’s better to admit your fault quickly.”
She added, “Next year, I plan to visit Yongjugol, the heart of prostitution [in Korea], in a bid to make a prostitution-free world.” She said the ministry was trying to take the initiative in policymaking before women’s groups and feminist scholars beat them to it.
by Moon Kyung-ran