By Park Si-soo
Of the many desires that people have, sex can be seen as the ultimate act to satisfy the desire of pleasure.
However, the deep-rooted xenophobic atmosphere has encouraged migrant workers to meet their sexual desires through illegal means.
On the evenings of weekends, the Suwon Station in Gyeonggi Province and its vicinities are inundated with neatly dressed male foreigners.
It's true that most of them succeed in meeting a girl that night. But the ``meeting'' is absolutely not for free and is only allowed in an isolated room under a dim red light.
This is part of a night scene playing out at a red-light district in Suwon.
On April 26, a 27-year-old Filipino man working at a factory in Ansan visited the district with some colleagues.
``My friends and I came here to buy sex,'' he said. ``Most foreign laborers are in their mid 20s and early 30s. We have strong desire and visit here regularly.''
The brothel has existed here for half a century and Koreans have accounted for the majority of its customers, until recently.
With the soaring influx of foreign workers, however, a growing number of shops there are transforming into ``foreigner-only'' stores. This change is noticeable in the red-light districts of remote cities such as Pyeongtaek, Osan, and Paju, where foreign workers are densely populated.
A prostitute refused to be named said ``Since 2004, when the government tightened the law on anti-prostitution, most shops in this district have suffered from declining customers. But thanks to growing foreign labors, it's getting better.''
Noting that during the weekend some of her customers come from not only Suwon but remote cities, she said ``I've heard that some foreign customers spend all their income to buy sex.''
According to a poll by the labor ministry, foreign labors cited the ``sex problem'' as the third highest complaint (20%), following locals' discrimination (27%) and language barrier (26.8%). Surprisingly, they showed relatively low discontent with food (3.6%) and housing (5.6%).
Regarding the issue of Korean women, the Filipino man said, ``Korean women usually have negative view on people from Asian countries but for Japan, while they prefer those from wealthy states such as the U.S. and European countries.''
Such discrimination against foreigners drives them to seek the red-light district or look for foreign partners.
Those who have ``relations'' with prostitute are relatively free from being infected with venereal diseases since in most cases sex workers use contraceptive such as condom. Meanwhile, those seek other ways are easily exposed to sex-originated ailments.
Especially, illegal immigrants infected with such diseases hesitate to see a doctor for fear of deportation, resulting in worsening the situation or transmitting it to other foreigners.
Sex Crimes Unabating
``These days, most sexually transmitted diseases can be cured due to newly developed high-powered vaccines,'' said Jung Jong-pil, a medical doctor in Paju. ``But many illegal foreign workers miss the timing of treatment.''
The discrimination is also causing the notably growing number of sex crimes perpetrated by foreigners.
On April 7, police arrested three Mongolians who had sexually assaulted a Korean woman. On the same day, a Filipino man killed a 14-year-old Korean girl with a weapon after failing to molest her.
According to the National Police Agency, only 43 sex crimes committed by foreign labors were reported in 2003 but it increased 2.5 fold reaching 114 cases last year.
A police officer said ``Most Korean victims report it to police, while foreign victims rarely do in fear that they could be exiled. We assume that the actual number of such crimes must be much higher.''
Some pro-foreigner civic groups demand the government allow foreign workers to live with their spouses, claiming it will largely contribute to lowering the number of sex crimes committed by foreigners.
Woo Sam-ryul, vice president at Joint Committee with Migrants in Korea, said ``Allowing foreign labors to live with their spouses is an essential step toward improving their human rights. Also, it would help drive down sex crimes by foreigners since their spouse would serve as an outlet for their sexual desire.''
Woo underlined many Koreans think that the number of non-Korean's crimes is as high as locals' crime rate. ``Actually the number should be much lower than our assumption since foreigners rarely violate regulations in order not to be exiled,'' he said.
Lee Chung-jae, chief adviser of a foreign labor rights group, said ``A large number of foreigner's offences are committed by illegal migrant workers. The government should enhance regulation to put approximately 230,000 illegal foreign workers under control and clamp down on burgeoning crime.''
A police officer handling foreigner's crime said ``Under the current immigration system, it's impossible to fully monitor 1 million foreign residents. This type of crime will continue unless the government comes up with comprehensive countermeasures.''
In a recent press conference, health minister Kim Soung-yee underlined ``The government is fully aware that something needs to be done for the sex problems of foreigners. But that doesn't mean prostitution will be legalized.''