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SEOUL — As part of its crackdown on human trafficking and the sex trade, South Korea’s government has announced a 20 million won ($17,000) reward system for information leading to the arrest of suspected traffickers, officials said Monday.

The Ministry of Justice program, which goes into effect Sept. 23, targets forced prostitution and the use of minors in the sex trade. Informants are guaranteed anonymity, but anyone who has “engaged in sexual relations with prostitution victims will not be entitled to the reward,” a ministry statement read.

New regulations also provide closed court hearings for sex trade victims, a move officials said would encourage more self-referred cases to reach police and prosecutors. Alleged victims will be able to request all personal data remain private in court cases, officials said.

The new rewards system goes into effect as prosecutors and police start using another tactic in fighting prostitution: Beginning in September, the Gender Equality Ministry, Justice Ministry and Korean National Police Agency will begin efforts to seize all brothel profits.

That measure was announced earlier this year, when officials publicly promised to close all 70 of the estimated red-light districts in South Korea beginning in 2007. The government says it will move sex industry workers to 14 new “self-support” centers designed to retrain them for other trades.

The U.S. military, long blamed as one of the contributing factors to South Korea’s sex industry, also is stepping up efforts. A human trafficking hot line (DSN 736-9333) has been established to let anonymous callers report allegations of human trafficking and prostitution, officials said.

Calls are tracked and logged by military police in an official information log shared with other enforcement agencies.

Courtesy patrols monitor the club districts; establishments suspected of participating in the sex trade are placed off-limits. New commercials specifically about the human trafficking issue have begun airing on American Forces Network channels, officials said.

Though illegal, prostitution in South Korea is widespread and rarely prosecuted, Gender Equality Ministry statistics indicate. More than 330,000 women worked in some 80,000 sex industry establishments in 2002, the last year figures were available.

All told, the ministry said, the sex industry in South Korea — including legal entertainment associated with brothels — accounts for some $20 billion yearly. In one case this February, officials said, police seized $1.7 million in cash from a single Pusan massage parlor that was a front for prostitution.


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