#dark #fear #yggr
Chung Kwan-young, Ms. Kim’s lawyer for the Constitutional Court hearing, argued that the law should be changed to allow — and regulate — red-light districts.
But Choi Tae-won, a Justice Ministry lawyer, defended the statute as the last bulwark against “anarchistic depravity.”
“If this law is gone, it will rapidly accelerate the perception of sex as a commodity,” he said.
Choi Hyun-hi, a lawyer who represented the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, questioned the prostitutes’ claim that they needed to make a living. She said, “Despite heartbreaking stories about hard lives, we still punish those stealing for a living, don’t we?”
Outside the courthouse, members of a national sex workers’ association, wearing large sunglasses and baseball caps, held signs that read, “We have families to support!” They warned that if red-light districts were closed, there would be more rapes and other sex crimes. A petition signed by 882 prostitutes and submitted to the court said the government had no right to “use criminal punishment to discourage voluntary sex among adults.”
Chang Se-hee, an association leader, also accused South Korea of helping export prostitution, saying crackdowns at home were driving more prostitutes to migrate to countries like Japan and the United States. Nearby, anti-prostitution activists rallied with their own catchphrase: “There are things you cannot sell or buy with money.”
The Constitutional Court has not indicated when it might rule, although several lawyers involved agree that a decision will probably come this year.
For now, Ms. Kim continues to ply her trade. She says prostitution has been her only meal ticket since she was 24.
A high-school dropout, she says she drifted from one menial job to another after both her parents died when she was a teenager. But she could hardly make ends meet because she could not lift heavy objects or stand for more than an hour at a time. Her right foot was crushed in a traffic accident, also when she was a teenager, and it did not heal properly.
Today she lives with a pet Shih Tzu she adopted from the street, and lives in a motel room that costs 400,000 won a month. Between 7 p.m. and 4 a.m. every day except Sunday, she goes to work in the capital’s Cheongryangri red-light district, a lattice of alleys lined with “glass rooms” where young women in miniskirts and high heels can be observed sitting on stools under white and pink neon lights. (In another red-light district in Seoul, called Miari, women sit in their glass boxes wearing wedding dresses.) When men pass, the women rap on the windows and call out, “Come in for a rest!”
Ms. Kim works on “Widows’ Alley,” where prostitutes in their 50s and 60s do business, renting spaces barely big enough for a bed for 10,000 won a day. Piles of coal briquettes sit outside their huts. Ms. Kim, the youngest on the alley, was relegated to that location several years ago because her foot injury made it increasingly hard for her to wear high heels, an essential prop for younger prostitutes.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, an aging woman sat on a red plastic stool, and as an old man with a cane passed through the alley she tried in vain to entice him.
“We get all kinds of people here, drunkards who beat us for no reason, who demand their money back,” Ms. Kim said. “Don’t you think we dream of doing something else, leaving this place one day? But those who try always end back here.”
The South Korean government says it operates 10 rehabilitation centers for prostitutes, providing them with 600,000 to 900,000 won in monthly stipends.
Last year, the program helped 226 women return to school and 640 find new jobs, the government says.
But Ms. Kim does not trust the government and vows to continue as a prostitute for as long as she can. She notes that a police station overlooks one entrance to her red-light zone, and that officers patrol but never close it.
“They come and selectively catch a few unfortunate women at a time and collect fines like taxes,” Ms. Kim said. “The state is no different than a pimp.”
Granny prostitutes reflect South Korea's problem of elderly poverty.
“In order to survive, I just close my eyes and get it over with,” a 78-year-old sex worker tells the investigative programme Get Rea!
SOUTH KOREA – It’s 10.30am and Madam Park (not her real name) is out prowling the streets of central Jongo district, Seoul, waiting to make a quick sale.
This 78-year-old targets grey-haired men, in practising the world’s oldest profession.
At Seoul’s heart, next to the busy business district, is a street where sex is for sale by women old enough to be grandmothers. These so-called ‘Bacchus ladies’ – named after a popular energy drink – are the subject of an investigation by Channel NewsAsia’s Get Rea! documentary on South Korea’s elderly poor, which premieres on Jan 31.
At her age, Mdm Park should be at home, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. Instead, she stands on the streets for at least 6 hours a day, waiting for customers.
“In order to survive, I just close my eyes and get it over with,” she said in Korean. “In one day, if there is good luck, we meet three to four men and receive about 100,000 won (S$120).”