A CCTV installed in a red-light district in downtown Seoul, Thursday. / Korea Times photo by Kim Joo-young
By Lee Kyung-min and Yoon Hee-jeong
Concern is growing that a Daegu City plan to set up surveillance cameras near brothels may violate human rights.
While the municipality claims the move is the right and effective way to drive out prostitutes to prevent the region's reputation being tainted, the sex workers say they are being unfairly victimized.
According to the Daegu Metropolitan Government, a joint team comprising representatives from the city government, Jung-gu District Office, the education office and police plans to set up surveillance cameras at five entrances to "Jagal Ground," in Jung-gu, where more than 110 prostitutes work.
The team plans to set up banners that read, "Selling and buying sex is a crime and violators will be punished accordingly."
The move comes ahead of the opening of a residential complex into which more than 1,000 households will start moving in October.
The district and city government said people who planned to move into the complex were filing numerous complaints demanding swift and complete removal of what they claim is a "distasteful operation."
"We may consider holding hearings and public discussions to push ahead with the cameras," a city government official said, Friday.
In response, Kang Hyun-joon, director general of the Hanteo National Union (HNU), a civic rights group representing the sex workers, said more than 35 brothel owners in the village planned to file a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) seeking its recommendation to halt such a move.
Kang said the HNU planned to hold a massive rally similar to one held in 2011 on Yeouido, Seoul, to protest against the government's plan to shut brothels.
He said that because of the authorities' unilateral decision, one of the most vulnerable social classes was being forced to give up its basic human rights.
"It's like the fight is between us and the rest of the world," Kang said.
"Except for us, everyone else has vested interests in having us removed ― construction firms, the municipalities, the education authorities and police. They simply want the workers to relocate voluntarily out of shame."
The bigger problem, Kang said, was that the sex workers had no power to prevent the authorities setting up the cameras should the authorities push ahead with the plan with "Cheongryang 588" a case in point.
Last year, despite fierce protests from more than 70 sex workers, about 20 cameras were set up in the red-light district in Dongdaemun, eastern Seoul, a year after the workers were told to move out.
"We learned the lesson then, and we will not let a similar incident happen this time," Kang said.
The NHRC's indifference was only aggravating the workers' situation, he added.
"The NHRC was only set up to meet the global standards required by international organizations such as the United Nations. It is not only toothless, but also incompetent, not at all interested in improving the situation."