Over 4,300 South Koreans picked up in police crackdown on sex industry

Friday, October 22nd 2004, 9:13 am
By: News On 6

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ A crackdown on prostitution in South Korea has netted 4,365 people in the month since it was launched, police said Friday.

The majority were men who bought or tried to buy sex at brothels, massage parlors and other sex shops, the National Police Agency said. Also detained were 849 brothel owners and 660 prostitutes, it said.

Most of those detained were released with a warning, but 171 were arrested and warrants are being sought for 120 others, the agency said in a statement.

Prostitution has been banned in South Korea since 1961, but the sex industry has thrived because police rarely enforced the law.

Studies estimate 600,000 to 1 million women work in the sex trade, about 2 percent of the country's 48 million people.

Thousands of prostitutes and pimps have held outdoor rallies saying the crackdown was driving them out of business.

New legislation, backed by women's rights groups, more than doubled the penalties for brothel owners, with fines of up to $87,000 or a prison term of up to 10 years.

Customers of prostitutes face large fines or up to a year in jail.