I need to earn a living, so if they give me money, I sell my body, even if I don't want to. (D, aged 16)
When my friend and I get paid for sleeping with men, there are so many things we want to buy that the money just seems to vanish. We have never received pocket money before. (J, aged 13)
After being sexually assaulted by that man, I lost my self-respect. (O, aged 18)
I wanted to work at a gas station, but they wanted a resume and my residential card. (S, aged 15)
Aha!,' YMCA Seoul's youth counseling center on sex culture (aha.ymca.or.kr) held a seminar for social measures against youth prostitution on July 18 in the conference hall of Sejong Center for the Performing Arts. Interviews with 9 youths involved in prostitution were revealed during the seminar.
The seminar is significant in that it was an opportunity to reflect on the issue of prostitution from the youths' point of view and to search for society's role based on this reflection.
The headquarters of the campaign to make schools safe from violence conducted a survey on juvenile delinquents in July last year and this year. All 70 of the girls who acknowledged experiences with prostitution (30 last year and 40 this year) have experienced running away from home as well. Among the 40 who answered affirmative this year, 19 have been victims of sexual abuse, showing that such bad experiences had a considerable influence on them.
Goh Sung Hye, a researcher with the campaign, says, Most of the youths with prostitution experiences come from economically deprived or mentally broken families, and there is a high chance they will go back to prostitution because of the environment and circumstances surrounding them.
The interviews conducted by YMCA Seoul reveals the economic and psychological instability experienced by youths in society, and the wounds inflicted on them by the distorted sex culture of male adults.
It's no different if you're just waiting on tables. You still get the same treatment, sexual harassment and come-ons. (D, aged 16)
This will make him love me I've cried in silence in the bathroom, because of the loneliness (B, aged 15)
They look like good guys on the outside. I don't understand why they act like that, asking me to go on vacations with them. It's horrible (S, aged 15)
What terrified me, even more than the sex, was running into anyone I know. I kept wondering if my Dad was going around doing the same things as the man I was with. (S, aged 18)
Director of Aha!' Lee Myung Hwa's advice in helping these youths is to ▲provide economic support so that young runaways can gain financial independence ▲heal their wounds from bad sexual experiences ▲establish a social safety net to continue giving them practical and moral support.
Kim Ji Sun of the Korea Institute of Criminal Policies claims, We need to activate a system in which professional police officers can become case workers in charge of investigating the background to the prostitution of youths and helping these youths. Kim stresses that the practice of sending these youths to institutions for guidance and protection should be abolished, because being institutionalized is equivalent to being branded as prostitutes, and because putting adults and youths together in such places can cause problems. Kim's proposes a state-funded agency exclusively for youths, where they can receive physical and psychological therapy.
Counselors working in women and youth groups who participated in the seminar say that instead of operating large and impersonal institutions, society should explore new ways to provide support, such as group homes.