Police bust 2 teenage prostitution rings involving runaways (Translation Hankyoreh March 2, 2007)
Civic groups say cases underscore need for prevention programs, education
Police say that on Feburary 9, a 14-year-old female middle school dropout forced two former classmates, both 14 and female, to go to an apartment in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province and have sex with three 16-year-old males she had met over the Internet. The girl that arranged the prostitution then collected money from the three males.
The two girls had already been forced into prostitution by the same ex-classmate in two other instances earlier this month, according to the police. The two classmates at first resisted her demands, but she hit them and threatened to prevent them from going to school if they did not obey her requests.
Police said that the 14-year-old girl was a runaway, and had committed the crime to earn money for her food and shelter. On February 26, police arrested the girl on charges of forced pandering of prostitution, a form of rape under South Korean law.
In a similar case, after running away from home, a 16-year-old girl met other runaways, both female and male, via Internet chat sites. The group began to hang out together. However, when their money started to run short, the group tried to force into prostitution a 14-year-old girl that they met over the Internet. When their attempt failed, they robbed the 14-year-old girl of 30,000 won (US$32) and mobile phone and then physically and sexually assaulted her. The kids burned her face with a cigarette and fondled her breasts. The group was arrested on February 20.
The problem of underaged prostitution has developed a disturbing facet: some teenagers are now becoming brokers of prostitution, forcing their peers into prostitution. In addition, as age is recorded differently in Korea, some of those involved in these cases may actually be a year younger by birth.
“About four years ago, teenaged males began to start visiting prostitutes in greater numbers. But these days, it goes further, as some teenagers have reportedly forced other teenaged acquaintaces into prostitution,” said Kim Ju-yeong, head of a civic group related to teenage prostitution.
Park Hyeon-i, an official at another civic group, said many of the runway teenagers that have forced their friends into prostitution were themselves exposed to domestic volence or sexual assault, and are likely to lack both self-esteem and respect for others.
Nonetheless, no countermeasures to combat the situation have been proposed thus far.
Kim Hae-gyeong, an official at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, said, “We need to expand facilities and job programs for runaway teenagers in order to prevent them from getting involved in prostitution.”
Kim Ju-yeong of the civic group said that “the authorities’ educational material for preventing the sex trade only encompasses the female, prostituted side of the equation, but the reality is that this is insufficient, as it does nothing to block the demand. Such males must be targeted by this education, as well.”
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