South Korean prostitutes hide their identities as they participate in a rally to declare 'Sex Worker's Day' on June 29, 2005 in Seoul, South Korea. Prostitutes rallied against government law aimed at the sex industry. The government began enforcing new laws last year to target human traffickers, pimps and prostitutes. The sex industry accounts for more than four percent of South Korea's gross domestic product, with its annual sales estimated at $21 billion in 2003.
Credit: Chung Sung-Jun

South Korea has toughed up its laws on sex offenders, and will now allow legal action against sexual offenders to go ahead even if the victim doesn't press charges, among other shifts. 

The law will now allow family and friends to take legal action on behalf of the victim, in an effort to prevent victims from being bullied into an agreement by their attackers, notes the Associated Press. 

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Further, the law has been changed so that adult males can also be recognized as the victims of sexual assault, whereas only female victims were given such legal recognition previously, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

The change in the status of male victims comes in tandem with tougher punishments for sex crimes that occur in military barracks, after a recent case in which a female military cadet was attacked by a senior officer. 

It will also be difficult for judges to reduce the punishment of an offender if he or she is proven to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs when an attack took place, added the WSJ. 

Heavier prison terms will be doled out to those deemed guilty of sex crimes, noted the Supreme Prosecutors' Office Wednesday, according to Yonhap, and offenders can be subject to mandatory counseling if they're deemed mentally ill. 

Sentences for those guilty of buying sex from children and adolescents will be raised to a year and a half from one year, while a higher fine of US$17,700 will be sought for those accused of sexually abusing the disabled. 

The measures were jointly announced by  South Korea's Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family Monday, and the new laws went into effect on Wednesday. 

South Korea is one of a few countries that permits the use of chemical castration as a punishment for sexual offenses, first instituted in 2012.

The law was recently revised to allow courts to order castration for all offenders deemed to be sexually deviant, regardless of the age of the victim. 

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