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[Opinion] Prostitution

Posted September. 14, 2004 22:11,   


Prostitution is one of the oldest professions in the history of mankind, but it has always been looked upon with blistering contempt. The bible endlessly reprimands the prostitute and her clients from the Book of Genesis to the book of the Revelations of St. John. “Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness,” says the Book of Leviticus, chapter 19, verse 29. “And it came to pass about three months after, that it was told Judah, saying, Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt,” says the Book of Genesis, chapter 38, verse 24.

The laws controlling prostitution differ with different generations and countries. The Netherlands legalized the sex trade in 2001, and prostitutes became workers who paid income taxes. Belgium is anticipating an increase of $57 million in annual tax revenues after legalizing prostitution this year. In Islamic countries, prostitution is considered a capital offense. In certain countries, prostitution is illegal, but policies have been established to permit the police to turn a blind eye to prostitution in specified zones. Korea, in the past, would be categorized among them.

Instead of an anti-prostitution law, a “prostitution and escort penalty law” has been enacted and will be executed on September 23. This law, created with the initiative of women’s organizations, punishes male sex buyers to “less than one year of penal servitude or a fine of less than three million won.” However, the law treats women sex sellers as victims and does not punish them. It is yet to be seen whether the enactment of this law will transform society’s previous attitude towards prostitution and eradicate it, as legislators intend it to do. Some believe that severe prostitution regulations will only force the sex trade to submerge, causing exploitation to increase and making medical examinations for AIDS prevention even more difficult.

The Economist, a British business magazine, maintained a consistent view, stating, “Consensual sex transactions in a free society should be a legal trade.” In a recent issue of the Economist, an editorialist wrote, “If you don’t harm others, you should be able to sell and buy what you like, including your own body. Prostitution is a dirty business, but the government should not interfere.” An editorial written with this kind of tone in a Korean newspaper should be well prepared for a sound thrashing from women’s organizations.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial writer, hthwang@donga.com