Well, according to cell phone poll data from Gallup Korea posted in the Dong-A Ilbo, 48% of Koreans seem to think so. In particular, 56% of men think the ban has led to an increase in sex crimes, as opposed to only 41% of women who believe so.

48% of Koreans also think prostitution should be permitted in certain areas. Again, many more men (58%) than women (39%) think prostitution should be legalized.

85% of Koreans think we should expand the scope of sex offenders who get chemically castrated. Women (89%) were particularly keen on this.

52% of Koreans think electronic anklets don’t help to reduce the number of sexual assaults, but 67% think releasing the personal info of sex offenders is effective.

For those keeping score at home, the 2004 Special Law on Prostitution marks its eighth year on Sunday. So mark your calendars and celebrate by not employing the services of a prostitute that night.

The Dong-A ran the data along with two opinion pieces, one by a Halla University business professor and the other by an instructor—I’m guessing either sociology or women’s studies—at SNU’s international grad school.

The econ guy argues, essentially:

– The 2004 law did nothing to reduce prostitution. In fact, it just made it more complicated by shutting down the red-light districts.

– The law also caused costs and prices to rise, preventing low-income johns from entering the marketplace.

– Block assess to sex without changing basic desires, and bad things happen. Nobel Prize winning economist Gary Becker wrote that crime happens if the potential reward outweighs the potential cost. So it goes with sex crimes, too. The cost to sex criminals, if they are caught, is the psychological and physical costs of prison life. For low income folk, the cost of prison life is likewise low. The prof says the fact that most of those caught sexually assaulting kids have been unemployed is no accident.

– He also notes that sex crimes per capita have climbed between 2007 and 2011, as has the percentage of sex crimes against children. Moreover, if you examine crime stats from the six years prior to the 2004 law and the six years after it, we find that the percentage of sexually violent crimes committed by the very poor climbed 3 percentage points, from 70.5% to 73.5%. During the same time, the percentage of thefts committed by the very poor actually fell, and the percentage of burglaries committed by the poor climbed just 1.4 percentage points. What we see, therefore, is a marked increase in sexual violence by low-income offenders since the ban on prostitution.

– Of course, you could strengthen punishments, but that could also lead to more rapists killing their victims to cover up their crimes, as we’re seeing now.

– Basically, we really need to reconsider if the Special Law on Prostitution is worth paying the costs that come with it.

The sociologist, on the other hand, argues:

– The experience in Western countries where prostitution is legal is that it’s impossible to restrict prostitution to certain districts. Moreover, even where prostitution is legal, sexual violence is on the rise.

– If there was a direct connection, sexual violence should have been widespread in the former socialist world, where the sex industry did not develop, or in Northern European nations like Sweden, where there are very few prostitutes. Instead, the reality is quite the opposite.

– The Suwon killer, Oh Won-chun, did regularly frequent prostitutes, but he still tried to rape another woman. Due to the special character of sex, you can’t simply conclude that the easier you can purchase sex, the fewer the sex crimes will be.

– The problems with enforcing the Special Law come from a social culture that views prostitution as a form of entertainment, particularly among the rich and powerful. It’s not right to call for the Special Law to be abolished citing its failure to lower prostitution knowing full well the law can’t be effective as long as there are groups in society supporting the sex industry.

– Prostitutes usually begin working in their teens, come from poor families or broken homes and were unable to learn skills and knowledge demanded by society. Few women volunteer to become prostitutes.

– Sure, prostitution will never completely disappear, but neither will poverty, war, drugs and other crimes. We should still work to reduce them.

– It’s shameful that in a country with a top 10 economy that might soon elect a woman as president that we’ve got so many prostitutes. We should increase jobs for women and expand welfare and education so that women don’t get caught up in prostitution.

Marmot’s Note: It’s worth noting that neither of the writers were women.