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Abuse – transitive verb 1: to put to a wrong or improper use; 2: obsolete (deceive); 3: to use so as to injure or damage (maltreat); 4: to attack in words (revile).
noun 1: a corrupt practice or custom; 2: improper or excessive use or treatment (misuse); a deceitful act (deception); 4: language that condemns or vilifies usually unjustly, intemperately, and angrily; 5: physical maltreatment.
Abuse, in any and all of its forms, is something many Korean women and girls deal with every day. In 2002, a survey done by the Korean Institute of Criminology, the number of sex purchases in Korea equaled to 4.4 of the countries GDP (Gross Domestic Product), almost the same as agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries combined. The survey also showed that there were at least 33,000 women working in prostitution. 8% of women working in Korea in their twenties and thirties were prostitutes. Also, a survey done by the Korea Women’s Hot Line showed that 42.6% of Korean men have purchased sexual service when having a drink. 12.9% of men said that they have bought sex when on business. 41.3% of all Koreans did not know that prostitution was illegal in Korea. Despite these outrageous numbers, prostitution has been illegal in Korea since 1961.
A common place that prostitution takes place in is Miari Texas Village (Also known as Miari Texas, Texas Village, Texas Miari, or just plain Miari.) an area in north-eastern Seoul, with over 250 prostitution houses. In these houses, liquor and food are served in the front and in the back, sex services take place in the back rooms. On average, a woman will see five to ten men a night. The women usually get paid 1.5 million won ($1, 340.00) monthly, along with 1,500 won ($14.00) for each client they see.
One very disturbing thing about Miari Texas is that 30% of about 1,000 prostitutes are under the age of eighteen. Even though prostitution is illegal, it is tolerated, if the women are over eighteen. Many of the young prostitutes in Miari Texas are runaways who feel they have nothing more to lose.
The first prostitution house (brothel) was established in the 1920’s when Korean women were taken as sex slaves by the Japanese military during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910 – 1945). After the Korean war ended in 1953, the large American military presence led to the building of “camp town prostitution” for the U.
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"Necessary Evil for Men vs. Sexual Exploitation of Women." 123HelpMe.com. 07 Apr 2020
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Women who were forced to partake in these sexual acts for the foreign soldiers were discriminated and excluded from the rest of society. In 1961, the Act on the Prevention of Morally Degrading Behavior, illegalized prostitution. Even so, prostitution was tolerated and even protected. Women in the prostitution industry were regulated to prevent disease.
“In the last forty years or so, in the process of economical development, the sex industry has become part of, and has expanded into the everyday lives of, Korean people – businessmen routinely conducted meetings and deals in brothels; the sex tourism industry exploded; and it was tacitly accepted by society that men had the right to purchase, and use at will, the bodies of women and girls. This trend was exacerbated by the development of consumer capitalism and the commercialization of women’s bodies.”
Between 2000 and 2002, a series of fires took place in the Korean brothels. In the fires, over twenty women burned to death because their rooms were locked from the out side by the brothel owner to prevent escape. The shock of these fires put women’s human rights groups into action. The women’s movement in Korea started focusing on prostitution as a social issue in 2001.
From 2001 to 2003, over twenty different women’s rights organizations did studies about the condition of women in prostitution. The research found that the women underwent physical threats, violence, rape, abduction, intimidation and extortion in their work. Most of the money they earned was taken away by the brothel owners and pimps because of debt bondage arrangements.
The Korea Women’s Associated United, an organization made up of over 100 women’s groups, created a ‘Special Committee for the Enhancement of a Law Preventing Prostitution.’ They were hoping for a law that would protect women and girls and punish those who abused them. The committee proposed two acts – first, ‘An Act Punishing the Procuring of Prostitution and Associated Acts’ and second, an ‘Act on the Prevention of Prostitution and the Protection of Prostituted Victims.’ A campaign was also created to increase public awareness of the dangers of prostitution.
A new law has been created, prohibiting and punishing sexual exploitation and procuring behavior, and also confiscating all the profits made from prostitution. Still, many of the women who took part in prostitution are simply considered “victims of prostitution” and decriminalized.
In Korea, men still consider women as sexual objects and continue to treat them as so. Despite the fight that organizations like Korea Women’s Associated United are fighting, many women in Korea are not aware of these pressing issues and do not consider prostitution as a violation of women’s rights.
A police chief in Miari Texas, Kim Gang-ja, spoke out against prostitution saying, “Men’s desire of prostitution is based on the biological differences between women and men and should be accepted. Prostitution will not disappear as long as women are looking for easy money. The majority of the Korean public now understands that prostitution is illegal under the new law and procuring prostitution is strongly punishable.
Debates are still going on in Korea, even though the new law took effect in September 2004. Even though the issue is heading in the correct direction, it is still not something to take lightly. Even if the new law is in effect, it will only work if government officials and police are able to resist offers given them from prostitution house owners and if women are able to realize that they don’t have to do this.
“The reality is in a male-dominant, patriarchal society, men purchasing sex has always been accepted, while women in prostitution have been stigmatized.”