45 Estimates on the size of the sex industry vary widely, but it is report- ed that the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family puts the number of women working in the sex trade at 500,000, while the Korean Feminist Institute estimates it at past 1 million. When the government shut down brothels, the industry fled to the backstreets and under the facades of massage parlors and officetels. Efforts to eradicate the industry instead have created a movement of sex workers dedicated to reforming the laws that they say are taking away their livelihoods. For them, decriminalization is the only solution. Despite the crackdowns, a wave in the public sector is cresting in the opposite direction. A senior figure who was prominent in gaining public support for the Special Laws has come out in favor of govern- ment-regulated brothels in certain areas, as the industry will “always exist.” Kim Kang-ja, a former senior Seoul police officer, says there are not enough police to crack down on all illegal prostitution, and that taking women out of their job without enough resources to help them reha- bilitate robs them of their livelihood. Claiming that harsher punishment is not a long-term fix, she says a better solu tion is to have it regulated to increase safety. “Having prostitution out in the open will benefit the women who work in the industry as the government will make efforts to prevent the exploitation of them and violations of their rights, which are now rampant,” she said in a 2012 interview with the Korea Times. Seoul City is even aiming to increase revenue by making the indus- try taxable, effectively legitimizing sex work. Last year, the Seoul High Court ruled that bar owners who arrange sex between their female employees and male customers should pay taxes on the earnings made from the arrangement. Kim supports taxing sex workers without registration, and she and her fellow activists are pushing for full decriminalization. Until that happens, Kim and Lee will continue to fight for their rights and to end the discrimination against sex workers. “If the demand withers, so does our income. If the sex industry itself is still banned, the stigma on sex workers stays. There has to be a new law that decriminalizes all,” says Lee. decriminalization’s rising support MorE INfo j Global Alliance Against Traffc in Women: www.gaatw.org Giant Girls Network for Sex Workers’ Rights: www.ggsexworker.org (Korean only) Durebang (My Sister’s Place): http://durebang.org “Working? Working!” photo project by Kim Yeo-ni: http://tiny.cc/working ‘If the demand withers, so d oes our income. If the sex industry itself is still banned, the stigma on sex workers stays. there has to be a new law that decriminalizes all.’ Lucien Lee, transgender sex worker