Nearly two out of every 10 senior citizens in Seoul have solicited sex with prostitutes in recent years, according to a survey released by Seoul City yesterday.
In the survey of 1,000 citizens aged 65 or older, 16.2 percent of the respondents said they had had sex with prostitutes.
Of them, 56.7 percent said they paid for sex five times or less over the last two years. Prostitution is illegal in Korea, one of the world`s fastest aging countries.
The survey also revealed the ages of those engaged in prostitution with the seniors. Individuals in their 40s made up the biggest portion at 30 percent, while prostitutes in their 30s, 50s and 60s comprised 20.7 percent, 20 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively.
Seoul Metropolitan Government commissioned the University of Seoul`s Industry Corporation Foundation to conduct the survey, in which 426 male citizens and 574 female citizens participated between August and September.
Pay to prostitutes averaged 60,000 won ($51.23). Those engaged in prostitution included housewives in addition to professional prostitutes, the survey found.
Also revealed was that 10.3 percent of the questioned had contracted some form of venereal disease through their experiences. Of them, 57.5 percent said they suffered from gonorrhea, while 19.5 percent said they suffered from urethritis.
More than 66 percent of the respondents said that the sex trade "should not happen."
The survey showed that 65.2 percent said they contracted diseases through having sex with prostitutes, while 19.6 percent said they were infected through having sex with friends of the opposite sex.
Of the total respondents, the percentage of those who said they have sex once a month was 31.3 percent and those who said they have sex twice a month was 53.4 percent.
Of those who regularly engage in sex, 53.4 percent said that they are satisfied with their sex life. The percentage of those having sex with their spouses was 76.4 percent and 16.2 percent said they have sex with friends of the opposite sex.
The survey also suggested that senior citizens have quite a flexible position on the idea of living together without official marriage registration, contradicting the general thought that senior citizens in a society firmly rooted in Confucianism would be conservative. Half of the respondents said they are ok with the idea.
"There is obviously sexual desire in senior citizens, but many have lost their spouses or have spouses who cannot have sexual relationships with them. We should help them address their sexual desire in a reasonable way and increase sex education for old people," said Kim Seong-yong, a welfare professor at Baekseok University.
"There is a great lack of instructors for sex education for senior citizens. We need to raise them. We also need to create quality programs, through which senior citizens can meet friends of the opposite sex and form wholesome relationships."
Kim, who served as one of the researchers in the survey, underscored that it is crucial to create an embracive social atmosphere in which sexual needs and romantic relationships of seniors are positively viewed.
Seoul City said that it would develop sex education programs for senior citizens, based on survey results and enhance sex-related counseling and lectures for them.
Korea joined the United Nation`s list of "aging countries" in 2000 -- meaning citizens aged 65 or older comprise over 7 percent of the total population.
According to Statistics Korea, the percentage of senior citizens rose to 10.3 in 2008 and is expected to climb to 14.3 percent in 2018 and to 20.8 percent in 2026.
By Song Sang-ho