Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Praying for Brothels to Shut Down

Something that foreigners find surprising about Korea is that there are so many brothels here. Prostitution became illegal over a decade ago but the government does little to close down this multi-million (perhaps billion) dollar business. Many brothels have gone underground but they are still conspicuously advertised. They can be found in Shillim and Itaewon, where my church campuses are located, Gangnam, Yongsan, Gongdeok,... everywhere.

Although many brothels have gone underground, there are still a few areas where open and public red light districts exist. I remember in 1998 (visiting Korea as a college student before prostitution was made illegal) driving through an area of Seoul with my uncle and cousins and being shocked as we made a wrong turn into a red light district that was half a mile long!

Praying to End the Enslavement of Girls
One of the "open" red light districts still around is located near "Young Deung Po" station. Over the past 4 years my church, New Philadelphia, has been praying relentlessly that these red light districts would close down and be replaced by family friendly businesses (so that it also effectively ends pimps preying on and enslaving Korean girls). I have often shared the testimony of NYC's 42nd Street transformation. How as the churches in that area prayed in the late 90s, the peep shows and XXX video shops closed down and were replaced by Disney stores in a matter of a couple years.

One of my church leaders who leads a ministry called "Unearthed" regularly leads prayer walks through red light districts of Korea (and Asia). They step over these properties, claiming Christ's dominion over them. They even occasionally speak with the working ladies, pimps, policemen, and customers, gaining insight into praying more effectively or ministering to them.

The Breakthrough
A few weeks ago, a few church leaders felt led to do a prayer walk through the Young Deung Po red light district. They prayed and they spoke with local policemen inquiring why more wasn't being done to crack down on the "open and public" brothels (it's something "Unearthed" has done several times before).

Over this past weekend, some of the leaders noticed that the brothels were being patrolled by police, preventing customers from going in. The fact that the police decided to do something about it was a huge answered prayer. My leaders posted up facebook posts celebrating the victory.

Public Protests
The brothels fired back by posting up huge banners in protest against the crackdown. Yesterday, the protests escalated into a public demonstration where 400 brothel workers took to the streets and marched upon the nearby Times Square Mall. Some even attempted to cover themselves in flammable liquid and burn themselves alive before onlookers stopped them. Although we rejoice in the answered prayer, our hearts break for the brothel girls and the hopelessness they find themselves in.

Who's Truly Responsible for This?
"The sex workers accuse a nearby department store of pushing police to take such measures. Police deny the claim." -AP

I'm not sure if the above accusation is true but one thing is for sure, the police were definitely being consistently "pushed" by a bunch of praying foreigners demanding the shutdown of these brothels. When it comes down to it, we believe that God is ultimately responsible for the new measures. Unfortunately for the girls in these brothels, many of them have nowhere to turn to. Because of the "shame stronghold" on Korea's culture, they would never think of returning to their families for help. Also, the pimps have a systematic way of threatening family members so these girls have nowhere to go.

My prayer is that safehouses will be setup for these girls to find refuge in and get a new beginning. But I won't be surprised if nothing is done about it by the Korean gov't. The protests from yesterday were nowhere to be found in any of the major Korean media outlets as it's something Koreans would rather ignore than confront.

Nevertheless, we are continuing to pray to disallow all forms of human trafficking and prostitution in Korea. We hope you join us as various ministries highlight and expose the magnitude of modern day slavery.