The streets of the red-light districts in South Korea are teeming with people looking for sexual gratification. There is little to disrupt business in this sex capital. Young men and women go into these district and rarely come out. The sex industry in South Korea generates enough capital to make 4% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Sex tourism thrives in South Korea as johns travel from all over the world to engage these girls in sex acts. Girls are either stolen or forced into prostitution to pay off debts. Girls from all nations are in danger of being trafficked into the sex trade.
Traffickers have specific targets for their victims. A large number of migrant women are lured into the sex trade. They fall prey to marriage scams that promise an honest marriage but they end up in a brothel. Women are also lured into thinking they have received a job offer when it’s just a cover to force more girls into prostitution. A large number of North Korean defectors end up as prostitutes because they can’t find any other kind of work. The large influx of migrant workers and defectors are prime targets for traffickers. Internally, girls with high levels of debt or runaways are common victims of pimps. Teenagers are especially vulnerable to trafficking. Teenage girls are promised they will make enough money to purchase luxury items. And like with most women they are promised freedom after earning a certain amount or paying off their debts. In most cases, these women are never let go. There are approximately 200,000 runaways involved in prostitution, according to Al-Jazeera news. It is only after a police raid or a successful runaway that these girls are free. So what makes the sex trafficking and prostitution viable in South Korea?
The red light districts operates openly in front of the law. Places offering sexual services are not limited to brothels. Meetups happen at salons, coffee shops, and even shopping centers. Sexual encounters are often arranged online to prevent police interference. Johns can solicit any type of prostitute online which often goes undetected. This is also how the underage sex trade thrives. Pimps will over underage prostitutes via online channels. This makes it less easy to track and be found out by law enforcement. There is also prevalent attitude that prostitution is simply another form of business. It’s viewed as being a natural part of life. There are even prostitution unions that organize to protest better working conditions. The government has taken action to stamp out prostitution but until attitudes and demand change, it’s likely that sex trafficking and prostitution will continue to remain a problem.
The sex trade continues to grow in South Korea. The demand for girls and underage youth doesn’t diminish, despite internal and external pressure to eliminate prostitution. As long as sex trafficking continues to fly under the radar, women will still be at risk to falling prey to sex trafficking rings.