Sex Work and Human Rights

Regarding “Abandoned elderly turn to sex work”

Screenshot VICE UK Report

Screenshot from VICE report (see below)

In his article “Abandoned elderly turn to sex work” that’s currently being re-published by media outlets worldwide, journalist Kim Hyung-Jin quotes Lee Ho-sun, a professor at Korea Soongsil Cyber University, as saying:

“Is this really these elderly women’s dirty problem or is it a problem caused by the ordinary people who point their fingers at them? I think it’s our society’s problem.”

At the start of this year, VICE UK published a video report by Matt Shea about the South Korean Love Industry”, which wasn’t only nonsensical and factually incorrect on many occasions, but also a text book example of unethical journalism as well as of a sexualised orientalist gaze. In that report, Lee Ho-sun appeared as well, although at the time, she was affiliated with a different institution, called Seoul Venture University; the one she is apparently affiliated with now is a private Christian university. Not only did Lee Ho-sun state in the VICE report that “Bacchus Ladies are destroying the traditional sense of value in Korea” but she also didn’t object to – or allowed herself to get tricked into – Matt Shea filming secretly while she interviewed elderly sex workers.

Elderly poverty in Korea in general and the fact that poor elderly turn to sex work to survive are certainly issues that need to be addressed and deserve attention. However, due to the inclusion of statements by Lee Ho-sun, I recommend reading an overall better two-part report by Heo Seung instead, published in 2013 by Hankyoreh, a South Korean daily which has published several respectful pieces on sex work. Please note that this recommendation does not represent an endorsement of all terms used in both the English and the Korean version of the report.

[Special reportage] Elderly prostitution at Jongmyo Park Part I + Part II

할머니, 폐지 주울 바엔 할아버지와…

See also Poverty Porn – In Response to Lucy Williamson, BBC Seoul Correspondent

8 responses

  1. SheryL♥

    Never did I expect such issue in Korea.

    September 28, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    • How so, Sheryl?

      September 28, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      • SheryL♥

        Elderly sex workers? Oh~ shocking!

        September 28, 2015 at 9:27 pm

      • Well, yes, it’s never good when people – of any age – have few alternatives to earn a decent living. However, how do you feel about the many elderly cleaning the streets and collecting recycling all over South Korea to eke out a living? Equally shocking? Differently shocking?

        September 28, 2015 at 9:47 pm

      • SheryL♥

        What I’m trying to say is that, I thought Korea was too conservative for that kind of issue.

        September 28, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      • There are sex workers in every country in the world and Korea surely is no exception. On the contrary. If you like, you can browse through this blog a little bit. For starters, I recommend the following two posts:

        [1] Working? Working!
        [2] “People clearly don’t know what’s going on” – Interview with Hyeri Lee, sex worker in Daegu

        I also strongly recommend reading E. Tammy Lee’s very recent report about last week’s protest by Korean sex workers.

        You can also take a look at the website of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP), where countless sex worker organisations from all over the world are members.

        September 28, 2015 at 11:01 pm

      • SheryL♥

        Thanks! 🙂

        September 29, 2015 at 3:24 pm

  2. I had an online discussion with a couple of people on a political website last week about sex work. Seems that a lot of people think sex work is all about pimps and limited choices. They both got all kind of mad with me when I suggested that sex workers have a right to decide if they want decriminalization and workers rights. Since I’ve known a couple of women who worked in the sex industry as exotic dancers I can attest that not every sex worker is a trafficked child or a desperately poor drug addict. After I linked them a couple of articles about sex workers rights they stopped responding.

    September 29, 2015 at 10:26 am

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