Recently there has been a surge of discussions about the prevalence of sex-related crimes as well as young Koreans’ exposure to cultural contents with sexual materials. Often they are taught adult behaviors without much discretion. Many media outlets now freely broadcast sexually explicit materials without much consideration of minor viewers.
In August 2011, the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) took action on a program aired on network television when a youth member a girl group, Hyun-a of 4minute, wore revealing stage costumes and showed a sensational performance with the male dancer. Recently, there was a dispute regarding the choreography and stage clothing of girl groups Secret and KARA that their performance was too sensual and embarrassing.
These disputes about female idol groups have always been causing a problem since some of the members are teenagers.
If the sex of the young entertainers are merchandised or they are treated without respect on variety program, KCC would penalize it. The sanctions could range from warning, cease and desist, termination of the respective program and disciplinary action on the responsible. Kang Tae-kyu, a pop-culture critic, stated that the broadcasting industry is going to try to settle the problem about sexually suggestive content and the sanctions should be discussed. He also indicated that the human rights of teenage entertainers should be protected since some might be forced to wear revealing clothes or partake in provocative performance.
In June, Ministry of Public Administration and Security formed the Federation of Protecting Cyber World with eleven nongovernmental organizations and went into action. Most of the members of the Federation of Protecting Cyber World are the parents and some are college-age volunteers. One of the parents joined because of her young son. One day, her son questioned “What does it mean to ‘stay up all night without sleeping?’ ” after coming across a urology treatment advertisement, that was employing a double innuendo, while web surfing.
When the Federation of Protecting Cyber World reveal the harmful website, they block the Uniform Resource Locater (URL). However, most of the websites have several number of URLs, not just one. Therefore, when one link is blocked, people can access through the other URLs. Moreover, to encourage people to access them, advertisers use pictures that arouse curiosity. The pictures contain sexual organ of the male or the upper body of the female. When the teenagers click the picture, it would lead to the websites that show a pornographic video or sell adult toys. Even news outlets fail to resist temptation of advertising revenues provided by hosting these suggestive, harmful-to-youth links. On Sept. 25, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family asked thirteen internet media to censor the harmful ads. If the media do not censor the ads, they could be sentenced to maximum two years or imposed fines which is maximum 10 million won ($9000).
From overly accessible sexual web contents, the youth are at risk of desensitization. They might come to perceive of sex-related crime lightly despite its illegality. Teenagers even find sexual part-time jobs through social networking sites. An online club that holds about a thousand members is a place where middle school students find those highly dangerous and illegal part-time jobs. Even more surprisingly, elementary students are not immune. When they want the job, all they’d have to type is “12F/K,” which stands for 12-year-old Female Kiss.
As it is common among minors, they have a tendency to imitate what they see without much discretion. Jung Hae-sook, a senior research member of the National Youth Policy Institute, states that they might think of the job as business-as-usual practice, mistakenly believing that many others in the age group also engage in sex-related part-time jobs. Furthermore, with a greater prevalence of use of smartphones and tablet PCs, communications with strangers on the Internet have become easier.
Sadly, some teens are already selling sex as their means of living. Sun-hwa (a pseudonym) ran away from home and now makes her living by having sex with adults. At first, she was forced into prostitution by a leading figurehead of a group of runaway teenagers she met. She was not paid money for the services she has provided and during the five months, she was not allowed to meet her friends and all her social networking sites were deactivated. Even though, she was able to escape from the coercive group, she still has to rely on prostitution to survive.
She recalled once asking a man why he was ‘buying’ sex with girls. The answer: he likes young girls. She says often girls are thought of as a tool, not a human being. Jung Hye-won, a researcher at the Korean Association of Woman’s Studies, pointed out that the sex trafficking against teenagers is an unmistakable case of child abuse. She also said that Korea lacks awareness of the systemic nature of sex trafficking that exists in the country and of the fact that the the adults that Sun-hwa met should be tried and punished for their highly criminal act.
Yet the public does not realize the seriousness of the deteriorating perception of teenagers on the matters of sex. Some of the causes can be attributed to the widespread harmful advertisements on internet platforms and the lack of social awaremess of the commercialization of the sex. To protect the basic human rights of safety of teenagers, sex in the context of our society and social cognition should be better understood.