Recently, this Tuesday, around 450 prostitutes and pimps went on protest with white burial robes or underwear with red and white body/face paint. The development of former red light districts into apartments and office building has caused a big hit towards business for the pimps and prostitutes. There seems to have been much progress in ousting the illegal business as the Korean newspaper, Daily Chosun, reports (titled ‘Prostitutes, Pimps Rally for Right to do Business‘):
In the once notorious red light district in Cheongnyangni, which at one time was home to around 700 prostitutes, only 60 remain. The red light district in front of Yongsan Station near central Seoul used to house around 120 brothels, but only six or seven remain and even they will be shut down next month.
Here is another article from Huffington Post, ‘South Korean Prostitutes, Pimps Rally Against Police Crackdown‘, and another from Washington Post, ‘Masked South Korean sex workers rally against police crackdown on brothels‘. And a youtube clip from AP at the bottom of this post.
As one who sees prostitution as a clear ‘wrong’ this crackdown on prostitution seems to be a very good thing, and it may appear that justice is being well served. But to merely stop at that and be content is to miss the purpose of the law. The law, in a secondary sense, exist for people not people for the law (adaptation from Mk 2:27). We must (particularly if you are a Christian) surface the question that is begged yet can be so easily hid in the shallow meaning of justice. For what are these prostitutes rallying? To be able to prostitute themselves legally? Not really. What they are rallying for is the right to work. It is just this situation that prostitution has been the only or easiest option for them (and sometimes not an option as they are coerced). So then, are we to be happy that prostitution is disappearing at the expense of these people ability to sustain themselves (Of course, individual motivations and responsibilities are involved but I refrain from that discussion for the sake of focus and space)? Is it proper justice that the rich landowners become richer at the expense of joblessness and poverty of others? This situation reminds me of the 1988 Seoul Olympics, when the peddlers on the streets were force out of the city to allow for a more presentable atmosphere. To see justice as merely rights and wrongs will only lead to patchwork enforcement. It will never get to the deeper more entrenched issues of holistic justice. Possibly through these events justice can find its original meaning, not just for the sake of etymology, but for the sake of people, people who deep down are just looking, though misguided, for dignity and significance.
**Warning** Some of these images may be disturbing and explicit.