Hanteo National Union Plan Protest Against Closures

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Author: 
Asia Pacific Regional Correspondent
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Hanteo National Union (HNU), a sex workers right’s orgnaisation in Korea told the Korea Times that sex workers plan to protest if the government pushes ahead with plans to shut down their workplaces.

Kang Hyun-joon, director of the HNU, told the media that sex workers have learned from a recent case last year in the east of Seoul, where 20 cameras were set up in the red-light district in Dongdaemun. Sex workers were pushed out of the area. More than 70 workers protested the shutting down of this district. Kang says they have learned valuable lessons from this event, and that they “will not let a similar incident happen this time.”

Instead, if the government fails to respect sex workers human rights, they will mobilise like when they mobilised in 2011 in Yeouido, Seoul, where sex workers set themselves alight and drew global attention to their fight.  

Kang said that sex wokrers plan to file a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). They want the Commission to halt the plans to install security cameras at the entrances of sex workers’ workplaces. They also want the Commission to stop the installment of signs saying that "Selling and buying sex is a crime and violators will be punished accordingly.”

The push for sex workers’ workplaces to be shut down is coming from soon-to-be residents of the area. A new residential 1,000 unit complex is scheduled to open in October. The district and city government have reportedly recived numerous complaints demanding the complete removal of what they refer to as “distasteful operations.”  

City government officials said that they may consider holding hearings and public discussions to push ahead with the cameras. However as Kang from HNU explains, “it's like the fight is between us and the rest of the world."

"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" Kang told media. 

The bigger problem, Kang said, was that sex workers have no power to prevent the authorities setting up the cameras should the authorities push ahead with the plan.