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Cover Photo: Korean sex workers, wearing traditional costumes, attend a protest against the police crackdown on brothels in Chuncheon, about km 62 miles northeast of Seoul May 31, The United Nations published a new report that investigates laws, HIV and human rights in the context of sex work. The study focuses on 48 countries of the Asia-Pacific region, with an emphasis on low and middle-income countries. All forms of sex work are criminalized.
However, this law was rarely enforced. The Act on the Punishment of Acts of Arranging Sexual Traffic defines sexual traffic to include sexual intercourse in exchange for money or goods Article 2. Therefore, sex work is defined as a form of trafficking. The penalty for anyone who has been engaged in sexual traffic is imprisonment for not more than one year or a fine not exceeding 3 million won Article This provision criminalizes both sex workers and their clients.
Persons who are coerced into providing sexual services are not liable to be punished Article 6 1. Other offences include soliciting, arranging, enticing, recruiting and providing premises for the purposes of sex work Articles 2 and Advertising a sexual traffic business shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than 3 years or by a fine not exceeding 30 million won Articles 19 1 and The penalty for operating a sexual traffic business is imprisonment for not more than 7 years or a fine of not more than 70 million won Article 19 2.
The Court upheld criminal penalties relating to recruiting people to work in the sex industry. The Constitutional Court has also declared that the offence of providing a place for the purpose of trafficking in sex is constitutional, citing the UN Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, which the Korean government signed in From , the government tolerated the sex industry provided that sex workers registered with health authorities and operated in specific red-light areas.
The government authorized the Korean Tourist Association to license bars or kisaeng professional entertainer houses near U. After the introduction of the anti-trafficking law that criminalized sex work in , this practice ended and sex workers became reluctant to register for STI testing and treatment due to fear of prosecution. Data on sex workers registered for STI examinations show a rapid decrease from 5, in to 2, in In only 1, sex workers were registered, a reduction of nearly 70 percent since There was also a reduction in the overall number people seeking testing and treatment for STIs.