Korea: Anti-prostitution law gets makeover for second birthday

September 23 was the second birthday of the Special Law on Prostitution, whose positive effects are still hotly contested, though the law has had one clear effect: sending massive numbers of Korean sex-workers abroad.

The government will attempt to tackle the problem by restricting or revoking the passports of people deemed to hurt the nation with their overseas antics, and there are to be reforms in the law to allow punishment for soliciting and thus reduce the number of cases that have to be dropped.

The amendments, unveiled Wednesday, include tougher punishment for those found participating in the sex trade and greater curbs on pimps.

They provide for the revocation of passports, closing down so-called sports massage and leisure rooms if found offering sexual services, punishment for owners of buildings were such services are offered, requiring massage parlors to use open rooms, increasing rewards for whistleblowers, and punishment for attempted prostitution.

The definition of sex will be changed to accommodate stimulation of the genital organs with hands and feet.

The reforms were decided at a meeting on Tuesday between the ministries of justice, gender equality and family, and foreign affairs.

The Ministry of Gender Equality released the results of a survey on the nation's sexual culture and awareness to coincide with the law's second anniversary.

It found that 49 percent of men said they had a sexual encounter with a prostitute, and of those, 85 percent said they had desisted after the enactment of the Special Law. But three out of 10 Koreans (27.2 percent) said they think the sex industry in Korea will continue to grow despite the law. Asked what specific threats the sex industry poses, 59.1 percent cited the peril to the nation's youth, 48.8 percent said an increase in sex crimes and 30.6 percent collapse of families.

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