Post #7: South Korean Sex Trade

In a country where women are still expected to be subservient to men, sex trafficking is at the front of human rights issues within South Korea. However, it is not limited to women within this country. The U.S. Department of State says South Korea, “is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. South Korean women are subjected to forced prostitution in South Korea and abroad.” This article goes on to say that not only are South Koreans trafficked through the country, but people from many other Asian countries are bought and sold through the country as well. Migrant workers, the U.S. Department of State asserts, are the most likely to be bought and sold into slavery as a way of repaying the debts they incur. Due to their low skill set, they often feel as if they have no other option of repaying their debts, nor do they know how to get help.

According to the International Business Times, the sex industry accounts for as much as 4% of South Korea’s GDP, or more than the fishing industry. This article also asserts statistics which say that one-fifth of men in their 20s purchase sex four or more times each month, which further shows just how ingrained the sex industry is within South Korean culture.

The United Nations has identified sex trafficking as one of its Sustainable Development goals. Goal 5 is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. One of the subsets of this goal is to, “eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.” Therefore, sexual trafficking was one of the issues which made it on the final version of the referendum, as the author was hopeful would happen.

However, for sexual trafficking to end, many of the U.N. countries need to stop turning a blind eye to what is happening in their own countries. As previously discussed, South Korea is a prime example of it. The GDP percentage figures came from the government itself, which is acknowledging that it knows sexual trafficking exists, but the government is not making any real headway in passing legislation to improve it. From an economic standpoint, with that much of your GDP coming from an illicit act, it would not make sense to crack down, spending more money to at the same time also reducing the amount of money your country is receiving. At the same time, the right move economically is not always the right move humanitarily, and in this case the right thing to do is for governments to intervene and pursue an agenda which benefits all of its citizens, not just the rich ones. As we discussed in lecture this week, countries need to understand and be willing to make economic sacrifices in order to benefit people, for in the long run it will be in everyone’s best interests to do so.


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