Brothels posing as massage parlors are increasingly thriving in downtown Seoul and the usual ‘cat and mouse game’ between police and these brothels doesn’t work because police are often part of the part of the problem, a major local daily said Saturday.
It was 12:30 p.m., Dec. 14, the Samsung-dong area of Gangnam District in Seoul, only 100 meters away from Sunleung Subway Station. As a reporter of the local daily, Chosun Ilbo, entered a massage parlor, posing as a client, an employee there almost immediately told him.
“You need to wait for two hours to receive the ‘service’ if you don’t have an appointment.”
Only 300 meters away, there is another massage parlor that provides sex service as well.
Welcome to the Republic of Massage.
In South Korea, which regularly carries out a ‘war on prostitution,’ the oldest profession of civilization is also a die-hard headache.
And be thankful to the police for that, as they are often part of the problem, according to the Chosun report Saturday.
A police station is about 700 meters way from the one of the massage parlors mentioned above. If the police are willing, the newspaper argues, they can easily crack down on the illegal sex service shops.
But an employee of one of these shops reflects the general sentiment this way. “A crackdown? We have a lot of clients who are police officers themselves. Our boss is also a friend to them as well,” the report said.
The police apparently help to make the cat-and-mouse crackdown easier to play for the massage parlor owners. They pre-inform them before they arrive in the places.
The symbiotic relationship has been a headache for the top police authorities as well. So, they tried to relocate police officers to prevent them forming a close and personal kickback-for-cover relationship with brothel owners which tend to happen when an officer works for a single district too long and enter into personal relationship with brothel bosses.
It didn’t work.
A client, only identified by his last name, Kim, 29, in the piece said: “They are many people around me who visit this kind of massage parlors. But I’ve never heard of any of them being caught by the police.”
Most clients also use caution too, using cash, not credit cards, not to leave traces.
But the newspaper harshly accuses the police of being “devoid” of will to crack down on these illegal establishments. For example, it says there are many Internet websites advertizing these massage parlors, which include their location, phone numbers and even pictures of sex workers with their personal details.
Given the publicly available information, “if the police are willing, it’s easy for them to crack down on them,” it lamented.
The information on these web sites is rich. Some of these Internet sites have “customers’ reviews” section to lure more clients, with one having some 500 comments, it said.
Police said they don’t have enough number of law enforcement officers for the task, which the newspaper said as a “lame excuse.”
In Seoul’s certain areas such as Samseong, Nonhyeon and Yeoksam, there are two to three massage parlors at each bloc and there are as many as 300 of them in the greater Seoul Metropolitan area, the report said.