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Online ads for private prostitution surge amid social distancing

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)
Online advertising for prostitution surged in Seoul last year amid social distancing measures, with over 40,000 such instances detected by a monitoring group, the city government said Thursday.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said its online citizen monitoring group detected a total of 68,711 cases of illegal and harmful information on internet sites, blogs and social media last year. Among them, advertising for illicit massages and arranged meetups for sex outside brothels marked around 42,330, up from about 18,000 in 2019, apparently as people avoided visiting brothels in fear of contracting the virus.

Aside from the private prostitution, the group detected 5,280 cases of illegal pornography without signs of restricting access to teenagers and 3,339 advertisements luring people into brothels through information on terms, price conditions and contacts that implied prostitution.

The online citizen monitoring group was launched by the city government in 2011 and aims to eradicate the illegal sex industry. So far, 9,087 people have participated in finding illegal and harmful information such as prostitution advertisements on the internet, social media services and smartphone applications.

Using data monitored by the citizen group, the city of Seoul has reported and filed complaints against those involved in the illegal sex industry through additional evidence collection and on-site verification.

Last year alone, 61,892 cases were reported to regulators and online operators, and for 42,295 cases, the pages were deleted and blocked from access.

Over the 10 years, 422,299 cases have been reported to regulatory agencies, with 363,193 cases resulting in deletion or being blocked from access. There were 333 administrative punishments and 202 criminal punishments over the last decade. As a result of the prosecution, estimated fines amounted to 1.7 billion won ($1.52 million).

This year, the city government will also recruit 1,000 citizens to serve as the 11th batch of the online citizen monitoring group. The deadline for recruitment is from Thursday to Feb. 20 on a first-come, first-served basis. Anyone aged 19 or older living in Seoul may participate. After conducting online training, they will conduct full-fledged monitoring activities for 10 months from March to December.

Song Da-young, head of the women family policy office in the Seoul government, said, “Because of the voluntary participation of citizens over the past 10 years, we were able to quickly take action by finding evolving advertisements for prostitution.”

“This year, we will actively promote the foundation, education and public relations so that more citizens can participate,” she said.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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