Sexual Exploitation of Boys: South Korea Report 2021

Sexual Exploitation of Boys: South Korea Report 2021

Sexual Exploitation of Boys: South Korea Report 2021

Background and Rationale

Violence against children, including sexual exploitation of children (SEC), is estimated to affect millions worldwide and no country or region is ‘immune’. It has the potential to impact upon children in all socio-economic groups, of all educational levels, and across all ethnic and cultural groups. While data about sexual exploitation of all children is generally lacking, this is even more so when looking at boys specifically. For example, in the rare cases that countries collect prevalence data on sexual exploitation of children, samples are often limited to adolescent girls, obscuring any understanding of the unique experiences and vulnerabilities of boys. While it is widely accepted that girls are disproportionately at risk of sexual exploitation, there has been an increasing awareness that there is a gap in the global understanding of how boys are impacted. The limited evidence available suggests that in some contexts where more boys are found, they may even be at greater risk. Boy victims can face legal consequences in countries where their offender is male and where homosexuality is criminalized – regardless of their sexual orientation.

The influence of gender norms around masculinity and femininity are important to consider in understanding the sexual exploitation of children, and we can observe that what is attributed to one gender, is often denied to others. These norms typically hold that boys are strong and invulnerable, less likely to be victimized or less likely to be seriously harmed if they are. Conversely, girls are often considered vulnerable, including to exploitation, and are expected to be significantly affected and in need of support. These norms can hamper the responses to the sexual exploitation of boys whereby the development of policies, practices, advocacy and research may underrepresent or exclude boys. “While many vulnerability factors for sexual exploitation and abuse are common to all genders, boys access to support is unquestioningly conditioned by gender norms, constraining their help-seeking behaviour and their ability to seek care.”

While these circumstances should by no means detract attention from continued research, advocacy, and support for girls subjected to sexual exploitation, there is a clear need for greater advocacy, understanding and a higher quality evidence-base on the sexual exploitation of children of all genders, to better inform all work to prevent and respond appropriately to their needs.

A Global Boy’s Initiative

ECPAT International launched the Global Boys’ Initiative to explore the sexual exploitation of boys, activating our worldwide network of member organizations in a range of research and response activities focused on boys. To meet the initial challenge of limited data, in 2020-21, the Global Boys’ Initiative embarked on a series of research projects in ten countries around the world, to shed light on understanding sexual exploitation involving boys, what factors lead to their vulnerability and increased risk, and what their needs are in terms of prevention, protection and support services. Much of this initial research phase was generously funded by SIDA, which allowed primary research to be conducted through partnerships between the ECPAT International secretariat and national ECPAT member organizations.

This Report

TACTEENNAEIL has been at the forefront of actions to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation of children in South Korea since March 1995, and has been a member of ECPAT International since 2004. TACTEENNAEIL and ECPAT International partnered for a ground-breaking research project into the sexual exploitation of boys in South Korea during 2020-21, with results captured in this report.

The project in South Korea included the following activities:

  • A survey of frontline social support workers from a range of services in South Korea, most likely to have contact with boys who have experienced sexual exploitation or abuse;
  • ‘Survivor Conversations’ with boys who had experienced sexual exploitation – exploring their lived experiences and perspectives related to gender norms, seeking and receiving support, the quality of services, and their recommendations for positive change;
  • An analysis of South Korea’s legal framework that protects children from sexual exploitation, with a focus on boys.

The findings captured in this report are intended to identify existing strengths, areas for improvement, and inform service improvements to ensure that they are gender-sensitive and accessible for all children. It is hoped that the findings will also contribute significantly to breaking down the stigma and taboos surrounding boys’ experiences of sexual exploitation and abuse in South Korea. Clear, actionable recommendations that are driven by the evidence, are also provided

Read or download full report here.