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Review the Special Anti-Sex Trafficking Act

Posted January. 10, 2013 22:37,   


A court has requested a review of the conformity between a provision of the Special Anti-Sex Trafficking Act and the Constitution. The Constitutional Court will deliver its ruling within 180 days. Though the request is about the unconstitutionality of punishing prostitutes, the provision also contains punishment for their customers. Thus the Constitutional Court’s decision could affect the anti-prostitution law.

Prostitution is technically illegal in Korea but many people know what massage parlors with large shingles on large roads in Seoul`s posh Gangnam district are for. Few countries make sex easily available as Korea. Laws are very strict but the sex trade is widespread, which is often blasted as hypocritical. Just a few unlucky perpetrators get caught. Countries have different laws on the sex trade based on their history and culture. Even nations that allows sex between adults based on an individual`s decision, do not punish sex trade, and manage where and how sex should take place must prevent other crimes such as sex trafficking, harassment and exploitation and keep their sexual culture intact.

Sex trafficking itself is not part of a sound sexual culture. What is unclear, however, is if the state should intervene with punishment. It also makes sense that the government`s right to punish is a last resort to keep society healthy and sound and thus should be exercised based on the principle of minimal intervention. In other words, whether voluntary sex in a private place between adults undermines public interests is unclear. The balloon effect of the anti-prostitution law rather has caused the spread of prostitution into residential areas secretly. The law also encourages prostitutes to falsely claim that pimps forced them to sell sex due to the provision that does not punish the victims of sex trafficking.

On the other hand, the law`s advocates argue that commercializing sex should be punished under any circumstance and use stronger enforcement to minimize sex trafficking. The law took effect in September 2004 for the purpose of punishing sex trafficking more strictly and reviving the punishment for johns, which used to be under the previous anti-prostitution law. A review is needed to weigh the pros and cons of the eight-year law and seriously revisit the entire system of preventing sex for sale.

Regardless of the decision on sex trafficking, any forced sex trade, human trafficking, debt bondage and sex crimes against children cannot be tolerated and should be rooted out. Job training and opportunities should be offered to sex trafficking victims so that they can do things other than selling sex. Hopefully, the Constitutional Court will accept different opinions and make a rational ruling.