41 The debate surrounding the decriminalization of sex work is not only a moral issue. The crux of it centers on a question of protecting human rights: Does the sex industry facilitate human trafficking? Those who support the criminalization of the sex industry argue that it needs to be eradicated to prevent human trafficking for sexual exploitation. The parties that want decriminalization maintain that with the sex industry impossible to eradicate, it would improve working conditions for sex workers, which would then reduce the demand for trafficking for the purpose of prostitution. Prostitution in Korea was made a crime in 1961, but crackdowns were not heavily carried out until recent years. Korea’s Special Laws against prostitution were implemented after a fire in a Gunsan brothel in 2000, which killed five women who were locked in the building, ex- posed the exploitation within Korea’s sex industry and prompted wom- en’s rights groups to demand legal reform. The two laws, implemented in 2004, aimed to eliminate prostitution and prevent the trafficking of human beings into commercial sexual exploitation. At the same time, they legislated harsh punishment for anyone who sells sex, with a fine of up to 3 million won or a sentence of up to a year in prison, excluding those who have been coerced into selling sex. But the laws that aim to tackle trafficking in Korea have not succeed- ed at eradicating it, according to Amnesty International. According to a 2009 report, women have been trafficked into Korea through the entertainment visa system by being initially recruited as singers and then ending up working in bars or nightclubs in gijichon, or U.S. military camp towns. In a survey by Durebang, a local women’s shelter, of 40 female Filipino workers on E-6 entertainment visas in gijichon, 90 per- cent were employed in work that was different from what was written in their contract, and the majority said their employer told them they had to sell drinks and have sex with customers. Not all of these differing work contracts, however, imply that the employee is engaged in sex work, researchers point out. In 2013, human trafficking was added as a crime to Korea’s criminal law, making human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation punishable. The U.S. government’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report estimates that there are more than 2,500 foreign women with debt bondage in “juicy bars” near U.S. military bases. For those who join the sex industry by choice, a real danger stems largely from laws that put voluntary sex work under the same umbrella as trafficking for sexual exploitation. Human trafficking, as defined by the U.N. and agreed on by Korea, is the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons by means such as force, abduction, fraud or coercion for an improper purpose including sexual exploitation. Sex work, on the other hand, is any voluntary exchange of sex services for material compensation. Laws that conflate the two contribute to the abuse of sex workers’ human rights by justifying crackdowns, thereby suppressing those who voluntarily work in the industry, according to a 2012 U.N. Development Program report on sex work and related laws in Asia and the Pacific. The report also found that criminalizing sex work “legitimizes” violence against sex workers, particularly from law enforcement officers and health care providers. In New Zealand, where sex work was decriminalized in the 2003 Prostitution Reform Act, sex workers have reported better working con- ditions. They said they felt more confident in negotiations and dealings with clients and managers since the law was introduced, according to a 2007 review on the implications of the health and safety practices of sex workers. Then in 2008, a government review of the reform found no evidence of trafficking for sexual exploitation or an increase in the size of the overall sex industry. Anti-trafficking groups in Korea and elsewhere frequently conflate sex work and human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation to support the criminalization of sex work, to the detriment of the safe- ty and rights of sex workers, says Matthias Lehmann, a doctoral re- searcher in law at Queens University Belfast, who studied human rights violations against sex workers in Korea. This conflation results from their refusal to recognize sex work as work, he says. Instead, they view all sex-for-money exchanges as “inherently exploitative and as violence against women.” “Anyone has the right to find sex work objectionable. That’s a mat- ter of one’s personal views, morals and beliefs,” he says. “Pursuing agendas that are proven to harm the very people they are supposed to help is another thing. The evidence of the harm caused by conflating sex work and human trafficking is there, and willfully ignoring it is not a matter of opinion — it is causing serious harm.” Advocates for decriminalizing sex work in Korea argue that the coun- try’s Special Laws from 2004 make sex workers’ jobs more dangerous, pushing their workplaces to the fringes. When sex work is criminalized, they say, it puts pressure on sex workers to negotiate pay quickly and gives them less time to screen clients, making for a more dangerous work environment. Six pro-criminalization organizations contacted by Groove Korea de- clined to comment for this story or did not respond to requests for comment. One such organization was the Dasi Hamkke Center, a govern- ment-run initiative that aims to protect the rights of sex trade victims and help them exit the industry. In a 2005 interview with Chamsesang Media, Jo Jin-kyung, the agency head, said that the 2004 laws are failing to help victims of the industry by the way “voluntary sex workers” is defined. “If the sex workers were forced to sell sex by the business owner, they are exempt from punishment and are seen as victims. I think that’s a big achievement,” she is quoted as saying. “But I think the fact that the law separates sex workers into forced workers and voluntary work- ers and punishes the latter is a limitation.” Jo views all women who are involved in the sex industry as victims of exploitation. When the 2004 law was passed, debt held by the workers was invalidated, meaning they didn’t have to pay it back. However, Jo says this debt was turned into “private loans” to be paid off through sex work. This, she says, made it difficult to prove if someone was coerced into the industry. “It is very difficult for the workers who have no choice but to remain in the industry after the law was passed to be protected by this law. They are not defined as ‘forced workers’ and so are subject to punishment,” she says. Jo supports the Swedish Model, which ostensibly seeks to eradicate prostitution by ending the demand for it, as a way to reduce the size of the industry. “Sex trade should be perceived as a form of violence from one person to another, and so the ones selling sex should be viewed as victims, be they women or men, and the ones who buy them or facilitate sex trade should be defined as offenders. Only then can the cycle of buying-facilitating-supply of sex trade be broken,” she says. The argument that ending the demand for sex work will eliminate the industry is debated worldwide. Sweden implemented its approach to eradicating prostitution as part of its Violence Against Women Act in 1999, and in 2010 the Swedish government reported that the prohi- bition of sexual services succeeded in halving the occurrence of street the great d ebate: sex work vs. trafficking