Can Legalization of Prostitution Work?

Korea Times Wednesday March 6, 2007
The column is entitled Lex Pro Bono and appears every Wednesday.

Can Legalization of Prostitution Work?

Dear Professor Sean Hayes:I am puzzled by the fact that prostitution is still rampant in Korea even though supposedly the police havecracked down on prostitution. Has the police trulycracked down on prostitution or is this just a publicrelations ploy?
Puzzled Foreigner

Dear Puzzled Foreigner: The police have cracked down on the visible and “underground” places of prostitution. However, the crackdown has not
significantly decreased the supply of or demand for sex workers.

In 2004, the National Assembly passed an anti-prostitution law that provides that buyers of sex may be punished by up to 1 year in jail and a 3 million won fine. Sex business owners may be punished by up to 10 years in jail and 100 million won fine. In actuality the punishments are usually much less than the maximum possible punishments. I have never heard of a purchaser of sex being sentenced to anything more than a fine and a suspended sentence.

The only real solution to this perceived problem is to either reduce the demand or lessen the perceived negative effects of prostitution. The first solution can be accomplished by vigorous enforcement of the law and the imposition of long jail terms – the second by the legalization and regulation of prostitution.

The first solution, however, must be questioned and the second solution should be studied and considered.

The punishment with long jail sentences of productive members of society, for having sexual relations for money, must be questioned. It has been found, in many investigations, that lawyers, professors, doctors, journalists, and civil servants are regular customers. I imagine that Korean society would be unwilling to punish these individuals with anything more than fines. If society is unwilling to severely punish the demand creators, thus decreasing demand, supply will always be present and readily available. This has been proven in the U.S. and the world in regard to the drug trade, the bootleg product industry, and of course prostitution.

The second solution of legalization and regulation many consider the most adequate solution in nations that have a large percentage of the population that have few
moral reservations to prostitution. The solution, as shown in parts of Europe, Australia, and even the U.S. has made, amongst other things, purchasing of sex
safer, less visible in residential areas, more costly for consumers, and a revenue producing industry for the government.

Korea needs to seriously consider and study the second solution; however, I fear that politicians lack the political will.


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