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Therefore, in reality, they are only able to deal with those incidents that are notified to us because of the limited number of police. As with other illicit trades, however, questions have been raised over whether the law has its intended effect. Not everyone agrees that greater enforcement would even corresponded to a reduction in the industry.
Kim Sang-kwon, a professor at the school of business administration at Halla University in Wonju, said that the law was in fact being enforced, but not with the result of a reduction in the sex trade. Instead, he said, enforcement was precisely what had allowed it to flourish. The success of enforcement in one area reduces the prostitution supply and leads to a higher price.
Since the costs to enter are very low, higher prices induce more people to open the business in other areas where they can avoid detection. The more intense the enforcement, the more widespread the industry becomes. In addition, the steady source of income could lure criminals to organize and let them bribe the public officials.
In the absence of the law these problems would have been unlikely to occur. The review stems from a case involving a year-old prostitute indicted for having sex with a year-old man for money. The Seoul court hearing the case requested a constitutional review of the law, which punishes both buyers and sellers with up to one year of imprisonment or fines of up to 3 million won, on the grounds that it interfered with individual autonomy. Matthias Lehmann, an independent researcher from Germany and member of the International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe, recently spent a year in Seoul investigating the impact of the law, interviewing women working in the industry, NGOs and other concerned parties.
He said the current legal situation was doing more harm than good. Some coming from an economics viewpoint argue that the authorities would never be able to stop prostitution even if they really wanted to. Kim of Halla University said the legal response had to take into account the reality of human nature and the rules of supply and demand.