Police Tighten Reins on Sex Doll Businesses Left in Legal Gray Area | Be Korea-savvy

Police Tighten Reins on Sex Doll Businesses Left in Legal Gray Area

This photo captured from the website of a local importer shows sex dolls.

This photo captured from the website of a local importer shows sex dolls.

SEOUL, June 7 (Korea Bizwire)Police said Monday they have started to regulate life-size sex doll “experience” shops, popping up around the country following court decisions to allow the import of the sex toys.

The National Police Agency said the crackdown will continue for two months, jointly with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family and local governments.

As the import of sex dolls, as well as running shops that allow customers to use the sex toys, is all legal under the current laws, however, the police will focus instead on whether businesses break laws on protecting youth from “harmful materials,” by, for example, running illegal advertisements.

They will also look into whether the businesses fully comply with building and construction regulations.

The move came amid growing concerns that the opening of such businesses close to residential areas and even in school zones hampers moral and healthy sex education of young children and teenagers.

But legal loopholes and lack of social consensus related to the business have added confusion to officials tasked with responding to growing complaints.

In June 2019, the Supreme Court took the side of an importer of sex dolls, saying, “Minimal intervention by the state in the private matter is one way to guarantee human dignity and freedom.”

In February this year, the Korea Customs Service appealed the ruling by the Seoul Administrative Court in favor of importing sex dolls, noting that some of the products were not “socially acceptable,” because they were child-like or resembled a certain celebrity.

“Since no import criteria have been established, the office cannot help arbitrarily suspending custom clearance for such objects,” the office said.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education and the police in April received a complaint about a sex doll business establishment near two high schools in the central Jongno Ward.

It is illegal to run such a business within a 200-meter radius of a school under the Education Environment Protection Act.

Although a sign at the entrance reads, “Adult content experience room,” the operator claimed the establishment was only offering consulting services to people who want to run a sex doll business.

Police found no immediate evidence against the owner’s claim.

“There are neither legal guidelines to crack down on sex doll experience shops, nor a team dedicated to the issue,” a ward official said.

The undated file photo shows protestors holding signs that read, "Outright Ban on Rape Dolls."

The undated file photo shows protestors holding signs that read, “Outright Ban on Rape Dolls.”

But the residents in the neighborhood demand the authorities regulate them more vigorously to minimize potential harmful effects on young children, arguing that they saw no big difference between such shops and prostitution establishments.

Education authorities have also admitted that officials are left with no option but to respond only when a complaint is filed.

There is no way to know in advance about the opening of such shops, as they are not required to get a business permission in order to open, officials said.

“It is nearly impossible to walk around school zones to check whether such shops are open or not,” an official from the Seoul education office said.

In Yongin, 49 kilometers south of Seoul, the city government in April ordered a sex doll experience shop to shut down, after a petition demanding the shop’s closure received more than 40,000 signatures in three days from angry residents.

The government’s oversight and regulation of the new industry should reach online retailers as well, Rep. Lee Yong-ho, an independent lawmaker, said in April.

According to documents the lawmaker obtained from the gender ministry and the customs office, 30 shops, or 36.6 percent of the total 82 online shops, sold sex dolls without running an adult authorization system for purchases and violated youth protection laws.

“Teenagers are exposed to sex dolls” without proper protection and supervision, Lee said, demanding the government conduct a serious study on the issue.

Last month, the lawmaker proposed a revision bill to have the type of business fall under the category of recreational facilities in order to ban them from operating in residential and semi-residential areas.


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