Trying to lose weight, 28-year-old salaried man Kim Hyung-joon hooked up to the Internet last Sunday to learn how to efficiently get rid of his love handles.
As usual, he contacted a popular social-networking Web site, and then moved to a popular diet-specialized blog with nearly 70,000 subscribers.
Searching for tips on diets, his eyes fixed on a photo of a seductive female wearing a tight shirt and short skirt. There was a message at the bottom of the photo: "I feel lonely. I am looking for a boyfriend. Don't hesitate to visit my blog to contact me.''
What Kim found at her blog site was a couple of photos of her taken in seductive poses and a message that she was looking for a boyfriend.
He emailed her and received a surprising reply in a couple of hours. "I would like to get to know you. Please call me,'' she said in a reply with what she claimed were her phone numbers.
Later, Kim realized she was a prostitute promoting herself though the blog.
The sex business is mushrooming in cyberspace. A growing number of prostitutes have transferred their workplace to the Internet to avoid police crackdowns and this shows no sign of letting up.
"Blogs enables prostitutes to attract customers without face-to-face contact and minimize the risk of being caught,'' a police officer said.
The police have yet to figure out how many sex transactions take place through cyberspace on private homepages or blogs. But the officer said, "t's definitely increasing.''
In a parliamentary session last week, Rep. Yoon Seok-yong of the ruling Grand National Party said that 34,795 people were arrested on charges of buying sex in 2006 with 15.4 percent of them using the Web to contact their partners.
The officer stressed the amount of prostitution detected had increased following a series of police crackdowns on major red-light districts in Seoul, which succeeded in driving many brothels there out of business. For instance, the three-month-long crackdown on the red-light district in Jangan-dong in northeastern Seoul has driven more than half of all brothels there out of business, according to the police.
But it speculates most of the prostitutes who were forced to quit still continue to engage in the business in secret, either in nearby areas or on the Internet.
To contain the burgeoning online sex trade, the police last week said they would investigate suspicious Web sites. "The investigation will focus on Internet chat rooms and private blogs apparently designed to sell sex,'' it said in a statement, seeking cooperation with major Web site operators.
In Chee-beom, PR team leader for SK Communications, which operates the nation's leading social-networking Web site Cyworld, said, "We closely monitor our service around the clock to immediately delete any articles indicative of prostitution.''
Naver, Daum and other portals also said they will intensify monitoring of their sites.