Red light districts in Seoul have never been particularly welcoming places for foreigners as many articles and user comments on this website can attest. Now two are completely off limits. One has all but been shuttered and the other has launched a campaign to ban non-Koreans completely.
There have long been rumors of impending ends of nearly every red light district in South Korea. Usually they amounted only to speculation. In at least one instance an attempt to close a red light district and redevelop it into something else was stopped by people on the ground.
Now, finally, the sun has set on one prominent Seoul red light district. The large and long-standing 588 (Oh Pal Pal) redlight district in the Cheongnyangni section of Seoul is a ghost of its formal self. Many of the old shops where women once sat looking for customers have been torn down. Those that remain are dark even at night and devoid of women all together.
The smaller Miari Texas redlight district in the Gireum section of Seoul has been reduced in size over the years, but it is still in operation. In recent weeks the local brothel keepers have been bowing to local pressure and falling business by launching their own clean up campaign. Apparently this “clean up” involves sweeping the street, volunteering in the local community and banning foreigners from the redlight district. As reported in The Seoul Times, several signs have been put up declaring the area a “Foreigners Off-limit Place”. The given reason for the foreigner ban is that foreigners are to blame for both SARS and HIV.
There’s nothing necessarily new about this, since there have long been rumors that foreigners carry disease. In fact that is one of the reasons many women working in Seoul’s redlight districts and other adult businesses refuse to work with non-Koreans. In the past however, anyone was free to at least walk through the redlight districts since they are situated on public streets. Now the local shop keepers have put an end to that with a declaration of their own kind of law.