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Koreans could once be sure that their children would look after them in their old age, but no longer - many of those who worked hard to transform the country's economy find the next generation has other spending priorities. As a result, some elderly women are turning to prostitution. Kim Eun-ja sits on the steps at Seoul's Jongno-3 subway station, scanning the scene in front of her.
The year-old's bright lipstick and shiny red coat stand out against her papery skin. Beside her is a large bag, from which comes the clink of glass bottles as she shifts on the cold concrete. Mrs Kim is one of South Korea's "Bacchus Ladies" - older women who make a living by selling tiny bottles of the popular Bacchus energy drink to male customers.
But often that's not all they're selling. At an age when Korean grandmothers are supposed to be venerated as matriarchs, some are selling sex. They sometimes go out with the grandpas and earn money from them. But I don't make a living like that. They don't differentiate. The centre of this underground sex trade is a nearby park in the heart of Seoul.
Jongmyo Park is a place where elderly men come to while away their sunset years with a little chess and some local gossip. It's built around a temple to Confucius, whose ideas on venerating elders have shaped Korean culture for centuries. But under the budding trees outside, the fumbling transactions of its elderly men and women tell the real story of Korean society in the 21st Century. Women in their 50s, 60, even their 70s, stand around the edges of the park, offering drinks to the men.
Buy one, and it's the first step in a lonely journey that ends in a cheap motel nearby. The men in the park are more willing to talk to me than the women. Standing around a game of Korean chess, a group of grandfathers watch the match intently. About half the men here use the Bacchus Ladies, they say. That's just male psychology.
Another man, 81 years old, excitedly showed me his spending money for the day. They'll ask us to play with them. Mature South Korea women sex say, 'Oh, I don't have any money,' and then they glue on to us. South Korea's grandparents are victims of their country's economic success. As they worked to create Korea's economic miracle, they invested their savings in the next generation. In a Confucian society, successful children are the best form of pension.
But attitudes here have changed just as fast as living standards, and now many young people say they can't afford to support themselves and their parents in Korea's fast-paced, highly competitive society. The government, caught out by this rapid change, is scrambling to provide a welfare system that works.
In the meantime, the men and women in Jongmyo Park have no savings, no realistic pension, and no family to rely on. They've become invisible - foreigners in their own land. We respected them. The current generation is more educated and experienced, so they don't listen to us. I can't trust my children to help. They're in deep trouble because they have to start preparing for their old age.
Almost all of the old folks here are in the same situation. Most Bacchus women have only started selling sex later in life, as a result of this new kind of old-age poverty, according to Dr Lee Ho-Sun, who is perhaps the only researcher to have studied them in detail. One woman she interviewed first turned to prostitution at the age of About women work in the park, she says, all of whom will have been taught as children that respect and honour were worth more than anything.
Police, who routinely patrol the area but are rarely able to make an arrest, privately say this problem will never be solved by crackdowns, that senior citizens need an outlet for stress and sexual desire, and that policy needs to change. Inside those bags the Bacchus Ladies carry is the source of a hidden epidemic: a special injection supposed to help older men achieve erections - delivered directly into the vein.
Dr Lee confirms that the needles aren't disposed of afterwards, but used again - 10 or 20 times. With most sex education classes aimed at teenagers, this has the makings of a real problem. Some local governments have now begun offering sex education clinics especially for seniors. Hidden in a dingy warren of alleyways in central Seoul, is the place where these lonely journeys end - the narrow corridors of a "love motel" and one of the grey rooms which open off them.
Inside, a large bed takes up most of the space, its thin mattress and single pillow hardly inviting a long night's sleep. On the bed-head is a sticker: for room service press zero; for pornography press three; and if you want the electric blanket, you'll find the wire on the far side of the bed. So here you have food, sex, and even a little warmth all at the touch of a button. If only it were that simple outside the Mature South Korea women sex room, in South Korea's rich, hi-tech society.
But for the grandparents who built its fearsome economy, food is expensive, sex is cheap, and human warmth rarely available at any price. Image source, AP. Image source, Corbis. But law-enforcement isn't the only problem. Related Topics. South Korea.Mature South Korea women sex
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