Porn websites on the increase in S Korea

Hyung-Jin Kim

South Koreans are increasingly using the Internet and other new ways to buy sex after the government launched a tougher anti-prostitution law in 2004 targeting brothels, official data showed on Monday.

Major red-light districts throughout South Korea numbered 1 696 in 2004, but the figure has gradually decreased to 1 061 in 2005 and 992 this year, according to National Police Agency records released by the office of Ahn Myoungock, a member of the National Assembly’s health and welfare committee.

However, the number of alternative locations where sex can be bought – karaoke bars, barber shops and massage parlours – increased to 139 273 this year from the 111 663 in 2003, the records showed.

Ahn’s office said in a news release the Internet and cellphones are also emerging as key conduits for prostitution.

The release cited data by the state-run Korea Internet Safety Commission showing it received reports that 11 724 websites and cellphone content operators were arranging prostitution as of June this year, a stark increase from 2 680 in 2005.

Ahn’s office also said that sex websites are posting prices and services along with photographs “in order to tempt customers”.

“In particular, female university students are looking for easy, convenient part-time jobs through these sites, but the oversight over these sites has been insufficient,” the release said.

Police records published by Ahn showed the number of those caught for violating the anti-prostitution law increased to 34 795 in 2006 from 12 739 in 2003. But more than 90 percent of offenders received minor punishments such as fines, educational training, community service and warnings.

Only 1,6 percent of violators was actually put into prison in 2006, a decrease from 9,6 percent in 2003, the records showed.

“The government has been excessively carrying out the law to attain some results,” said Oh Bum-suk, an aide to Ahn. He added, however, that police end up setting free violators because of insufficient evidence.

Kim Chun-ok, a National Police Agency official, said police have focused on human trafficking and juvenile sexual offences and that those crimes are decreasing.

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