More than half of Korean men have paid for sex at least once in their life, a government report showed Monday.
According to the poll of 1,050 men by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, 50.7 percent said they had purchased sex, 6 percentage points down from 2013. Nearly 26 percent of them had engaged prostitutes in the past year and did so 8.46 times per year on average.
The majority of men who had paid for sex, or 53.8 percent, first did so when they were aged between 20 and 24, followed by those aged 25-29 (27.6 percent), 30-34 (10.2 percent) and those under 20 (3.9 percent.)
One in 4 men who have bought sex said that they did so out of curiosity.
Social atmosphere also appears to be a major factor. Just over 19 percent purchased sex ahead of such “special events” as enlisting in the mandatory military service, followed by 18.3 percent after an alcohol-fueled gathering and 10.4 percent under pressure from peers.
The number of establishments involved in prostitution across the nation increased from 1,858 to 1,869, compared to the last survey in 2013. But the number of sex workers declined from 5,103 in 2013 to 4,402 last year, the report showed.
According to a survey of 174 sex workers, 75.6 percent of them were in their 30s. Nearly 48 percent of prostitutes first turned to prostitution in their 20s, while nearly 22 percent began as teenagers.
The majority of the prostitutes said they worked for eight to 12 hours on average, their health conditions were poor and they were in debt. They took 4.7 days off a month and on average were paid 78,120 won ($68.70) per transaction, down from 79,650 won in 2013.
Another poll in the report showed that 61.8 percent of the surveyed 173 teenagers from troubled homes had provided sexual services to adults in return for money. Of them, 78.4 percent arranged the meetup using mobile chat applications or websites.
Among the 108 websites arranging sexual exchanges, only 15.7 percent had adult verification measures to confirm those offering sexual services were not underage. Among 317 such mobile applications, 87.7 percent of them were available for anyone, regardless of an age.
The reason they had turned to prostitution was because they had nowhere to go or sleep (29 percent), friends asked them to (16.8 percent) or they were under pressure from others (13.1 percent). Nearly 88 percent received money in return for the sex.
The Gender Ministry conducts the study every three years to find out Koreans’ awareness of and experience with prostitution, teenagers’ involvement in the sex industry and sex workers’ conditions.
“We will toughen crackdowns on the sex trade in partnership with police by stepping up monitoring on messaging applications tricking children and young people into the sex trade and giving prize money to those who report such applications,” Gender Equality and Family Minister Kang Eun-hee said.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)