[CON] Corralling the problem no cure-all

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[CON] Corralling the problem no cure-all

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Should prostitution be registered and restricted?
*After a series of heinous sex crimes and sexual offenses against children stirred Korean society, a proposal to register and restrict prostitution is under discussion. Kim Kang-ja, a visiting professor at Hannam University, led the massive crackdown on the red-light district when she was the chief of Jongam Police Station. She calls for the designation of areas where brothels could legally operate. But women’s groups and others criticize such a system as blatantly disregarding human dignity and social values. Kim and Cho Bae-sook explain their contrasting views on the proposal to restrict and register prostitution.


The entire society is feeling uneasy as heinous sexual crimes are reported almost daily. The government and society as a whole need to bring their wisdom and capacity together to prepare preventative measures.

In the course of discussion, it is regrettable attacks targeting the ban on prostitution are spreading to online discussion forums. They argue that the sex crime is increasing because of the ban on sex trade. However, their claim is based on two faulty premises.

First there is the mistaken analysis of the crimes. If you look at the causes of increasing sex crime, you would see they are different from prostitution. There are just as many sex crimes in the prostitution business, but the victims are typically reluctant to report the case.

However, awareness of the problem has improved, and sex crimes involving prostitution are being reported at an increasing rate. Also, the media should be credited for reporting sex crime news in a prompt and straightforward manner.

Secondly, the dissolution of families and local communities has broken up the invisible structure of families and neighbors who prevented crimes in the past. More people are caught in society’s blind spot.

Third, the prevalence of pornography is another reason why sex crime is increasing. Television and the Internet, coupled with a trend of sexual openness, means people are easily and frequently exposed to violent and sadistic pornographic materials, including child porn. Violence is subconsciously planted in the minds of offenders who fail to control their sexual urges. The rise of sexual crimes seems to be a result of this pathological social trend.

Another erroneous premise is that men cannot control their innate sex drive though reason and the drive needs to be fulfilled. They argue that the sexual instinct of men is an irrefutable fact of nature. According to this logic, it is only natural that the rights of some women have to be sacrificed to satisfy the natural sexual desires of men.

Such a position fails to take into consideration the rights of women and is not far removed from the Japanese imperialistic idea of so-called “comfort women.” It is a result of male chauvinistic thinking that denies the human dignity and value.

The proposal to restrict prostitution to registered brothels is also based on these faulty concepts. Even if they are “restricted,” the essence remains the same. Restricting the selling of sex goes against the ban on prostitution as morally and socially repugnant, not to mention degrading to women. And it undermines the progress that has been made in the face of substantial challenges. If certain areas are designated for registered prostitution operations in spite of the ban, these areas will soon be filled with brothels and the law would be useless. Moreover, other related crimes - such as criminal human trafficking to supply prostitutes - are likely to rise.

Of course, new forms of sex trade are thriving by exploiting the loopholes of the law, so it is fair to question the effect of the prostitution ban. However, no one calls for abolishing the law against murder just because there are still murder cases. Now is the time to reinforce the shortcomings of the system. Budgets should be allocated for rehabilitation programs to train former prostitutes to find new careers and become productive members of society. Women should be provided with vocational training and opportunities to seek legitimate jobs to prevent the sex trade industry from growing. Law enforcement authorities need to display the will to crack down on sex-trade crimes, and the government should work hard to cure the pathological sexual illness of Korean society.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.

*The author is a former member of the National Assembly and an attorney.
By Cho Bae-sook

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