"It's impossible to completely wipe out prostitution anyway."
The debate over licensed prostitution, which had died down after the fire in Gunsan red light district, has sputtered back to life, tensing up women groups once more.
It started out with the news that Kim Gang Ja, head of the Women and Youths Department of the National Police Agency, had produced a video entitled <Suggestions to Solve the Problem of Prostitution.>
Inspector Kim claimed that due to it controversial contents, the video was not distributed, and that a replacement was being produced at the moment. However, this was after wide press coverage reporting that Kim condones licensed prostitution.
But in an interview with The Women's News on April 9, Kim refuted the press reports, claiming, "What I am calling for is not licensing prostitution but eradicating it." Says Kim, "It was the media that claimed its support of licensed prostitution; I myself never mentioned it in my interviews." She goes on to explain, "All I did was suggest, for the sake of effectiveness, a gradual eradication of prostitution, by implementing a reservation period in the case of districts where bars operating without permits are concentrated."
However, overall public opinion, according to two separate surveys conducted by the Ministry of Gender Equality and a newspaper, seems to be leaning towards licensed prostitution. Amidst the public's growing tolerance towards prostitution, the media has sparked off yet another round of debate over licensed prostitution by claiming that even Inspector Kim Gang Ja is for it.
Regarding the current debate, sex worker support groups ask, "Do the people who support licensed prostitution really know what it entails?" To most people, 'licensed prostitution' conjures up images of geisha houses in the Japanese colonial era or means legitimizing prostitution.
Sex worker support groups like Saewoomtuh and Hansori Society state, "The abuses of licensed prostitution have been exposed, leading to a worldwide trend to abolish this system. So it is anachronism to talk about introducing licensed prostitution now is anachronistic." They also point out, "Those for licensed prostitution pretend to be concerned about the human rights of sex workers, but it is basically a male-chauvinistic attitude that rationalizes the buying and selling of sex and separates women involved in prostitution from the rest of society."
Lee Gi Soon, Director of the Women's Rights Planning Department at the Ministry of Gender Equality, says, "If the debate is about how to crack down more effectively on sexual exploitation, than more effective measures can be formulated through discussion." What Lee is worried about is "that the current debate will end up merely confirming the impossibility of solving the problem of prostitution, leading to a rise in public opinion to give up the fight and accept prostitution."