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Most of the storefronts are shuttered during the daytime and come alive at sundown. But business is slower than usual, partly because of the bad economy but also, according to government officials, due to the success of the Anti-Sex Trafficking Law, which was enacted five years ago amid great fanfare to beef up existing anti-prostitution laws. However, except for cosmetic changes, the lucrative sex trade is still very much around, experts say. The only difference is that since the law was enforced, the sex trade has evolved.
Business as usual A tell-tale sign that business was, if not booming, reasonably healthy came earlier this month when the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency announced it would transfer hundreds of police officers in the southern Seoul districts of Gangnam, Seocho and Suseo.
The move has been widely interpreted as an effort to sever ties between the police and entertainment establishments offering sex services. The decision to transfer the officers, all from a range of departments, came after it was discovered that police officers had inappropriate relationships with massage parlors in those areas. The current going rate for massage parlors is , won in cash and , with a credit card.
As credit card records are easy to trace, customers and owners tend to prefer cash. Nowadays, adding to the sex-for-cash businesses, hyugae-tel resting rooms , where customers can call up sex workers and then later join them at another venue, are expanding rapidly, while commercial sex offered online, which is harder to track, is also growing. Still, government officials say the implementation of the law from five years ago has helped significantly reduce the scale of the sex industry.
According to ministry estimates, there were , active sex workers in Korea in , a decline from , five years earlier. Her shop is in Yeoksam-dong, southern Seoul, where many upscale room salons are clustered. Icha can be used to refer to the second bar or restaurant for a group to head to, but the slang meaning is sex with a female partner. Even in the midst of a global economic downturn, Ye said her business is doing well.