Paju increases financial aid for sex workers to help them find new career path

By Park Ung Posted : June 11, 2024, 10:32 Updated : June 11, 2024, 13:21
Courtesy of Paju's municipal office 
SEOUL, June 11 (AJU PRESS) - Paju, a northern border town near the demilitarized zone (DMZ), is set to increase cash handouts for those leaving prostitution and sex trade businesses.

The town, notorious for its red-light district called "Yongjugol," has been cracking down on such businesses since 2021. As part of these efforts, it provided one million won ($726) per month for the first year and half that amount for the second year. But now it has decided to give the same amount for the entire two years.

The proliferation of nightlife bars and brothels in Paju traces back to the stationing of the U.S. army after the Korean War (1950~1953). About 40 underground establishments, often disguised as bars and massage parlors, still exist there with approximately 90 sex workers involved.

Similar assistance programs have already been implemented in other cities like nearby Incheon and the southern port city of Busan. Paju's latest extended subsides aim to help sex workers lead a secure life while finding other jobs to make a living.

But challenges remain, as some question the effectiveness of the subsidies, raising concerns about potential misuse. In 2018, Hong Jun-yeon, a then-city council member in Daegu, expressed doubts about whether recipients would quit their sex trade jobs permanently. 

There is also ongoing debate over the use of taxpayers' money for this purpose. A message posted on one Internet forum reads, "Why do we need to support sex workers with our taxes? There are more worthy ways to spend the money, such as supporting war veterans."

But experts stress the importance of support, as many sex workers are often undereducated, which makes it difficult for them to find other lines of work.

Yoo Chun-boon, head of Paju branch for Gyeonggi-do Women's Group Association (GWGA) emphasized the need for government support, citing social factors that may contribute to their circumstances. "Most sex workers had no choice but to get into the sex trade due to poverty or family discord in their childhood," she added.

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