Minjung (19, pseudonym) left home and school a couple years ago. Her father belonged to a violent gang and her mother was an alcoholic. After leaving home, Minjung began to work at a karaoke club, serving alcohol for older men and singing or dancing with them, and has been living in a motel since then.
Six (59.6%) out of ten teenagers who have been involved in prostitution have left their homes. This means that teenagers without a home are more likely to partake in prostitution.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family published an analysis of sexual assault crimes that targeted children and teenagers over the past five years. During 2007 through 2012, 9128 teenagers were victims of rape, sexual assault, prostitution and other sex-related offenses. The number of teenage victims has increased 31% since 2007 and more than half have experienced sexual assault and 39% have experienced rape and 5% have engaged in prostitution. The average age of the victims was 13.1 years old. Especially the average age of victims involved in prostitution has dropped from 16 years old in 2012 to 15.5 years old.
However, four out of ten sex offenders receive suspended sentences. The percentage of offenders who have received suspended sentence has increased, meaning more offenders stay out of prison and do not receive the appropriate punishment. All rape offenders are required to receive a sentence of five years or more, but 60% of the offenders received a lighter sentence due to the judge’s special authority to lessen sentences.
Those who led and planned the prostitution also received sentences below five years, which is much lesser than the requirements. There are also multiple cases of offenders who are suspended of their sentences recommitting a crime or sexually assaulting the original victim again.
Therefore the ministry is planning on passing a resolution to institute a minimum seven-year sentence for rape offenders. Last June, after a reformation in the children-teenager sexual protection law, the highest sentence for a rape offender could possibly be a life sentence,.
The ministry hopes that putting the new resolutions in place might make a change, but what might be more necessary in society should be an awareness and new perspective of sex offenses. Multiple high profile sexual offenses have received wide media coverage and attention, but this hasn’t produced more than a few weeks of empathy for the victim’s family and anger towards the offender. Still, a majority of the Korean society perceives sex offenses as being caused by a mistake or as being relatively less serious as other types of crimes, for instance thinking of rape as a much lighter crime than murder. However, thinking of the mental and psychological agony that these crimes bring to the victims, sexual offenses in general should be thought in a new light, before more amendments are put in place.