Underage Vietnamese prostitutes waiting for customers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Source)
A scathing editorial in The Korea Times newspaper lambastes fellow countrymen following a state-funded report by the Korean Institute of Criminology that conducted a year-long onsite survey of sex tourism in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines.
The government’s findings? Korean sex tourists are the No. 1 source of demand for sex with minors in Southeast Asia.
According to the Korea Times, Interpol officers in Cambodia sarcastically refer to Korea as the strongest sponsor of the SE Asian sex industry and that “Koreans are unrivaled when it comes to buying sex from minors.”
The Times went on to say:
If the testimony from many underage prostitutes, police officers and human rights groups is true, South Koreans are the biggest customers of the child sex industry in the region. That’s very shameful for the country.
Another article in the Korea Times claims that some attribute the problem to ignorance of the law, with one survey showing that the great majority are unaware that sex tourism is illegal:
A survey conducted by the institute on 900 Korean tourists last year showed 77.7 percent were unaware that sex tourism in Southeast Asia was illegal. About 78 percent of respondents said Korean tourists won’t be punished by the government even if they were caught buying sex
The Widening Reputation
The world has also taken notice. A report from the U.S. Department of State, entitled “Trafficking in Persons Report,” highlights South Korea as being a “significant” source of the demand for child sex tourism in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands.
Child prostitute caught on film by Al Jazeera (source)
The State Department ranked Korea as a “Tier 1” human trafficking country as recently as 2011 and also noted the growing number of South Korean women and girls being traded within the U.S., Japan, Hong Kong and Western Europe.
As reported in a recent post on this blog, it is estimated that over 100,000 women are exported from Korea every year to work as prostitutes abroad.
Easy Access and Target Marketing
Yun Hee-jun, head of a Seoul-based group campaigning against sex trafficking, told reporters that finding minors for sex is easily accessible online and that brothels in SE Asia specifically target Korean clientele.
On online community websites, you can easily find information about prices for sex with minors and the best places to go. If you visit any brothel in Vietnam or Cambodia, you can see fliers written in Korean.
The Times editorial calls for harsher punitive measure against individuals seeking sex with minors abroad as well as a crackdown on domestic tour operators who publicly arrange sex tours to SE Asian countries.