Prostitution in South Korea
Prostitution in South Korea is illegal, but according to The Korea Women's Development Institute, the sex trade in Korea was estimated to amount to 14 trillion South Korean won ($13 billion) in 2007, roughly 1.6 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.
The number of prostitutes dropped by 18 percent to 269,000 during the same period. The sex trade involved some 94 million transactions in 2007, down from 170 million in 2002. The amount of money traded for prostitution was over 14 trillion won, much less than 24 trillion won in 2002. Despite legal sanctions and police crackdowns, prostitution continues to flourish in S Korea, while sex workers continue to actively resist the state's activities. 
Before the modernization of Korea, there were no brothels, but a caste of the women for the elite landholding classes performed sexual labor. Modernization eliminated Korean castes system. The first brothels in Korea began to spread after the country first opened its port in 1876 through a diplomatic pact, causing ethnic quarters for Japanese migrants to sprout up in Busan, Wonsan and Incheon.
1960s: U.S. military
From the 1960s and until today U.S. camptown prostitution still exists outside U.S military bases (for example outside Camp Casey and Camp Stanley). This was the result of negotiation between the Korean government and the U.S. military, involving prostitution for United States soldiers in camptowns surrounding the U.S military bases. The government registered the prostitutes who were called as Western princess and required them to carry medical certification. The U.S military police provide for the security in these U.S camptown prostitution sites and detained the prostitutes who were thought to be ill to prevent epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases. This government involvement was in the past motivated in part by fears that the American military which protected South Korea from North Korea would leave. Camptown prostitution exists outside U.S. military bases (for example outside Camp Stanley). Though U.S. officials publicly condemn prostitution, they are perceived as taking little action to prevent it, and some locals suggest that U.S. Army authorities prefer having commercial sex services available to soldiers.
In 2003, the Korean Institute of Criminology announced that 260,000 women, or 1 of 25 of young Korean women, may be engaged in the sex industry. However, the Korean Feminist Association alleged that from 514,000 to 1.2 million Korean women participate in the prostitution industry. In addition, a similar report by the Institute noted that 20% of men in their 20s pay for sex at least four times a month, with 358,000 visiting prostitutes daily.
In 2004, the South Korean government passed an anti-prostitution law (Special Law on Sex Trade 2004) prohibiting the buying and selling of sex and shutting down brothels. In 2006, the Ministry for Gender Equality, in an attempt to address the issue of demand for prostitutes, offered cash to companies whose male employees pledged not to pay for sex after office parties. The people responsible for this policy claimed that they want to put an end to a culture in which men get drunk at parties and go on to buy sex.
In 2007 the government announced that sex tourism by Koreans would be made illegal, as well as Korean women going abroad to sell sex. The courts prosecuted 35,000 clients, 2.5 times higher than the number of those who were caught buying sex in 2003. Meanwhile enforcement is weak and corruption problematic; there is little evidence that new legislation has made much difference, the trade simply finding other ways to carry on its business. However more men are being sent to "John School" for purchasing sex, while a 2010 investigation suggested that 20% of seniors seek out sex workers.
Range of services
Following the enactment of the Special Law in 2004, there was a crackdown on red-light districts; while many of the brothels in those areas were forced to close, the crackdown went as quickly as it came, with the result that prostitution was driven more underground but also became a more competitive business with lower prices and more services.
Red light districts in South Korea can compare to those of Amsterdam and Germany. The four main red light districts in South Korea prior to the Special Law are Cheongnyangni 588, Yongsan Station, and Mia-ri in Seoul and Jagalmadang in Daegu. While not all of them are operating to full capacity, some still exist while being tolerated not only due to the vast amount of money that is involved in the business, but also in an attempt to control the sex industry.
Other sexual services include 가택 마사지 (gataek massaji) which is an "in-call" massage where the customer would travel or meet at the masseuse's home or quarters, 키스방 (kiss bang) which are rooms where customers pay to french kiss and fondle women, and 출장 마사지 (chuljang massaji) or an "out-call" massage where the masseuse travels to the customer's place, love motel, hotel, or another disclosed location.
At least half of South Korea's 200,000 runaway youths, 60% of whom are female, have worked as underage prostitutes. The young girls, who often run away to escape academic pressure, sell sex over internet chat, and live with "families" in jjimjilbang, or bathhouses with fellow prostitutes. According to United Voice for Eradication of Prostitution, these teen prostitutes are sometimes raped, gang raped, or contract syphilis from their activities. Recidivism is common, with over half of the girls counseled by the Voice returning to the sex trade, because of blackmail from former pimps and social ostracism from future husbands and families.
Though as recently as 2001 the government received low marks on the issue, in recent years the government has made significant strides in its enforcement efforts. Human trafficking was outlawed and penalties for prostitution increased; the 2004 Act on the Prevention of the Sex Trade and Protection of its Victims was passed, toughening penalties for traffickers, ending deportation of victims, and establishing a number of shelters for victims. As of 2005 there were 144 people serving jail time for human trafficking.
A Los Angeles police spokesman said that about 90 percent of the department’s 70-80 monthly arrests for prostitution involve Korean women and Los Angeles police estimates that there are 8,000 Korean prostitutes working in that city and its suburbs. Korean women`s customers in foreign countries are mostly Korean men.
A US State Department report titled, "Trafficking in person's report: June 2008," states that in "March 2008, a joint operation between the AFP and DIAC broke up a syndicate in Sydney that allegedly trafficked South Korean women to a legal brothel and was earning more than $2.3 million a year. Police allege the syndicate recruited Korean women through deception about the conditions under which they would be employed, organized their entry into Australia under false pretenses, confiscated their travel documents, and forced them to work up to 20 hours a day in a legal Sydney brothel owned by the syndicate."
The US State Department report also states that the South Korean government "fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking." In 2012, the government continued law enforcement efforts against sex trafficking, and signed MOUs for the Employment Placement System (EPS) with five additional countries and conducted numerous anti-trafficking awareness campaigns. The Korean National Police Agency also cooperated with foreign law enforcement agencies to crack down on human smuggling networks.
Foreign prostitutes in South Korea
South Korea is both a source and destination country for human trafficking. Mainly Chinese and Russian and Southeast Asian women are brought into the country for prostitution by Korean employment agencies, many of whom are tricked into thinking they will have a legitimate job. The agencies use high salaries to lure young girls to go to Korea and once they arrived, they will be forced to work as sex slaves.
Chinese prostitutes in South Korea
Hundreds of thousands of Chinese women ( both Han and Korean Chinese) are engaged in the prostitution businesses such as hotel, massage parlor, noraebang room, room salon and so on in Korea
Russian prostitutes in South Korea
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, young Russian girls have been commonly seen in the red district of Korea. They can be found in the bars, strip club and coffee shop for entertaining the customers. Between January 2000 and March 2001, approximately 6,000 Russian women entered Korea through Busan port and Gimpo. In 2000, 3,064 Russians entered South Korea on E-6 visas, 2,927 of them women (Jhoty, 2001)
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