Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Origins of sex industry in Korea


Thousands of women, mainly from the Philippines and the former Soviet Union, have been trafficked into South Korea for the sex industry since the mid-1990s, with the Philippine women servicing mostly the bars near the US military bases.
In July 2001, the US State Department, in a report on trafficking in persons, classified South Korea as one of 23 countries that did not meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, under the terms of the US Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act.

The South Korean government meanwhile charged that the US report negatively portrayed Korea and was not based on adequate review of the country's situation. The Korean government, in rebuttal to the report, among others, pointed to several articles in its criminal law that heavily punished those involved in the sale of human beings for prostitution.

The IOM report traces the origins of the modern sex industry in Korea back to the Japanese colonial period (1910-1945), when prostitution was recognised, licensed and even developed on a nationwide scale.

After Korea's liberation from the Japanese at the end of the Second World War, licensed prostitution ended. Then US forces moved in until Korea's independence in 1948 and they again returned during the Korean War in the 1950s.

Although the licensed prostitution industry ceased to exist, it easily transformed into an unlicensed, yet well-organised trade, targeting the military camp towns under joint US-Korean control that are still found in South Korea, the report emphasises.

While efforts have been made to 'officially' abolish prostitution, such endeavours have not been successful. According to the report, some observers have even suggested that 'an unwritten or de facto policy of the US military to "keep the men happy" has resulted in a sort of collusion with local businesses, local government, and military bases to support a camp town entertainment/prostitution industry.'

Against the backdrop of a sex industry in Korea that is becoming more diversified, foreign women have become an important source of labour to support this industry. The report notes that many of these women were not initially imported to provide sexual services to South Korean clients. Rather, they were brought into South Korea since they were essential to the survival of the military camp town businesses.

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