Last week, South Korea’s Constitutional Court held the first public hearing to review the nation’s prostitution law.
According to the existing legislation, both sellers and buyers of sex are subject to up to one year in prison and a fine as high as 330,000 yen.
To protest the law, hundreds of prostitutes arrived in front of the courthouse in Seoul to attend the hearing. This follows a request for review lodged by a 41-year-old woman three years ago. The woman, who had been accused of selling sex for 14,000 yen, claims the law is a human-rights violation.
“Little by little, the 260,000 prostitutes in Korea” — as of 2003 — “are migrating abroad,” a writer specializing in the fuzoku (sex-related) trade says. “Among the locations, Japan is the most popular, making the nation awash in Korean prostitutes.”
In 2004, the Korean government passed the anti-prostitution law and shuttered a number of sex shops. Perhaps ironically, the law is intended to protect human rights, having been partly due to a fire in a brothel in North Jeolla Province that killed 14 prostitutes two years before.
With Seoul not being an option, many turn to Tokyo. According to the Korean government, there are 80,000 prostitutes abroad, with 50,000 of them in Japan.
“They come to Japan on a three-month visa,” says a person in the fuzoku trade. “By day, they may work as cleaning ladies but by night they turn to prostitution.”
With supply overrunning demand, “the market price for their services has already eroded,” says the aforementioned fuzoku insider.
The trend is poised to continue. In February, a South Korean government report indicated that the unemployment rate among those aged between 15 and 29 was 11.1 percent in February, the highest figure in six years.
“As a result, even elite women are among those struggling to find employment,” says a reporter in Seoul. “So earning income overseas as a prostitute becomes a quick and easy option.”
Between 2013 and 2014, Japan was the most popular destination for Koreans receiving overseas employment training, a separate government report said.
The appeal of Japan for Koreans goes beyond mere employment opportunities. “(Japan has) a culture of sophistication as far as fashion, and then there is also the influence of manga,” says the aforementioned reporter. “There is as well a sense of security in working in Japan, the nearest country.”
One other factor is also in play. “With plastic surgery, a Korean strong point, creating beautiful women, there is no doubt that this has influenced the explosion in those selling their body in Japan,” says the reporter.
Source: “Baishun tettei torishimari saishu dankai de Kankoku bijo ga Nihon ni tairyo ryunyu,” Shukan Jitsuwa (April 23, page 202)