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Enforcement of Anti-Prostitution Law Causes Conflict

Posted October. 07, 2004 23:11,   


Amid a dragnet activated against prostitution with the enactment of a new anti-prostitution law, prostitutes from brothels nationwide held a large protest rally on October 7.

About 2,800 streetwalkers, as estimated by the police, attended a rally near the National Assembly and insisted that their rights to live should be guaranteed.

In a statement they demanded as follow: Acceptance of prostitution as an official profession; discretion of clandestine prostitution from open red-light districts while in public probes and the introduction of public prostitution; and the suspension of the intervention in the issue by the women politicians and associations.

“Women politicians and the women’s groups, which are purported to be helping us, do not have any interest in our day-to-day reality,” the statement reads, “Don’t scapegoat us for your cause.”

During a “free-speech” session, tens of women took the floor and vented their anger.

“We have been living hard at the bottom. We are here for survival,” said a woman who introduced herself as coming from the so-called Miahri, a famous red-light district. “I want to live. Let me live.”

“Just as others sell their wares, we sell ourselves,” said a woman who said she came from the city of Pohang. “Our job should be accepted as an official profession.” She asked, “Has the government ever tried to help us, who have no other options because we don’t have any other trade and money, to get by?”

When a woman began to read a suicide note left by Yoon, a 24-year-old who attempted to committed suicide, many women began to cry.

Hiding their identities with baseball caps, masks, and sunglasses, they began to gather around 10:00 a.m. and disbanded around 4:00 p.m.

The police deployed about 1,200 officers. There was little clash with the protestors. The women planed for another rally in the city of Pyongtaek on October 9.

Earlier, about 150 blind masseuses, who serve in massage parlors in the Gangnam district of Seoul, held a rally at the Gangnam police precinct at about 12:00 a.m., protesting that the public probes by the police into the parlors are threatening their livelihoods.

They attempted to enter into the precinct. After a one-hour-long confrontation with the police, they occupied the eight-lane road for 30 minutes, jamming traffic in the area.

Meanwhile, the Korean Women’s Associations United, National Solidarity against Prostitution, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, and 80 civil-society groups demanded a strong enforcement of the anti-prostitution law in a press conference in Seoul on October 7.

“It is an increasingly widely-held public belief claiming that the special law will wind up as a mere scrap of paper and that sanctions and punishment will die down soon. Suspicions of the government’s will to enforce the law are rampant,” said the activists. “Prostitution providers’ attempts to nullify the law should face precaution.”

“The providers threaten women who do not get involved with prostitution and activists who attempt to rescue them in breach of law,” they asserted.

“The government and authorities should ban any form of prostitution as stipulated in the law,” they said. “They should sternly respond to and punish criminal organizations which attempt to invalidate the law and commit irregularities.”

Jin-Kyun Kil Se-Jin Jung leon@donga.com mint4a@donga.com