Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Yoo Young-cheol, South Korea's Brutal Serial Killer

Phone Sex

Yoo refocused on new targets:  women in Korea's enormous sex industry. According to the Korean Institute of Criminology, South Korea's sex trade was valued at $20.4 billion, making up 4.1% of the gross domestic product—larger than the utility industries.  Prostitution is illegal in South Korea.  However, the sex industry is ubiquitous, from the smallest of country towns to the large red light districts in Seoul, sex is for sale.  

Korean Institute of Criminology
Korean Institute of Criminology

Sex workers range the gamut from high school girls soliciting sex in Internet chat rooms so they can make enough money to buy a new cellphone to housewives doing it to make extra cash for their children's cram school tuition.  Others hustle to pay off credit cards, and many become sex slaves under cruel systems of indentured servitude to pimps that buy and sell the women and keep them imprisoned in brothels. In 2004, South Korea was listed on the Trafficking in Persons Report published by the U.S. State Department.

Outlets that provide sexual services take creative forms.  There are the massive red light streets of Seoul's Miari, Cheongyangni 588, and Yeongdeungpo; Busan's Wanweoldong and Texas Street, and the Yellow House in Incheon. There are "love hotels" that charge by the hour, and scattered throughout every city are barbershops with double candy-strip poles that indicate they provide sexual services.  Usually nearby are coffee shops where one can get a "ticket" for a woman. The nightlife is loaded heavily with sex venues like room salons or "business clubs" where orgasms are used to finalize business deals, along with karaoke singing rooms that also provide something extra for their customers. Often health-related businesses are fronts for prostitution such as saunas and steam bathhouses, and "sports" massage parlors.

South Korea is a country where nearly every man, woman and child has a cellphone, and the cellphone has revolutionized the Korean sex industry.  With the spontaneous and fleeting nature of the customers, accessible prostitutes were only a phone call away.  Pimps could call in new appointments immediately, text message the next rendezvous address and check the prostitute's whereabouts at anytime.  All sex venues became outcall hubs that could provide sexual services immediately.

In Korean, jeonhwa bhang simply means "phone room."  It's either a phone sex service similar to 1-900 numbers in the U.S., or an actual place:  small, dark rooms with a telephone, a TV and video player loaded with porn, a lounge chair, some tissue,s and a memo pad.  The customer usually pays by the hour, enters the room and waits for the phone to ring.  A woman calls and they chat and there is always the possibility of meeting the woman later.  One statistic from a Donga Daily newspaper report cited that 57% of the contacts have sex within four hours.

Yoo Young-cheol fully understood the anonymous nature of the phone sex room.  That would be his contact point and that is where he would find the same kind of woman that rejected him and made him feel worthless.  He would call them, and persuade them, and he would make them pay.  There were thousands of them out there waiting for his call.

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