The Korea Herald


'Legal loophole behind rise in underage prostitution’

By 임정요

Published : June 29, 2016 - 15:25

    • Link copied

The number of prostitution involving minors abruptly rose in the recent five years, according to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family data, with a lawmaker pointing to apparent loopholes in the criminal law as an indirect cause, Wednesday.

The ministry’s data on sexual misdemeanors targeting underage children showed an increase in the number of court cases from 14 in 2011 to 258 in 2014. 

(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

The total number of reported victims came to 566 over the cited period, among which 48 percent were between 13 and 15 years of age.

The average age of the victims was 14.8 years old, meaning the majority of them were middle school students.

Lawmaker Kim Seung-hee of the ruling Saenuri Party pointed out Wednesday that the legal working age in Korea started at 15, and that middle school students between 12 and 14, in cases when they ran away from home for personal reasons, were unable to obtain money through proper channels and became easy prey to prostitution.

Notwithstanding this, article 305 of the Korean criminal law currently dictates that children above the age of 13 are considered as being able to exert autonomy, and therefore having a consensual sex with them is not legally punishable.

Having sex with children under 13 is punishable at all times.

Among the 258 reported cases of underage prostitution, only 16 cases ruled immediate prison terms to the adults involved in the act. The rest 98.8 percent of the cases handed out suspended sentences and unsubstantial penalties, citing the voluntariness of the teenagers as the reason.

Representative Kim said, “In other advanced nations such as the U.S. and the European states, despite their relatively liberal ideas regarding sex, the minimum protected age for the sex trade is 16.”

Kim plans to submit a revision to criminal law to raise the threshold age for protection of teenagers involved in sex.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (