One incident was all it took to set off a bomb. A middle school girl was diagnosed with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)—the cause being prostitution. The report sent the nation into convulsions of fear, filling social networking services (SNS) to the brim with posts and discussions. Major portal sites were flooded with questions onself-diagnosis methods and AIDS symptoms, yet all the upheaval misses two crucial points. What has driven teenagers to prostitution in the first place, and what is the unvarnished truth about AIDS?
Shame is what a responsible society should first feel uponen countering a case like this. A teenage girl was coerced into prostitution at the age of 15—putting aside the girl’s character and other such personal details, an upright society would not have allowed adults to threaten, exploit, or conceal as those involved did with the Busan teenager. Yet Korea cowered and gave themselves up to self-centered fear rather than the outrage that fuels much-needed changes.
The recent case easily grabbed huge public attention in thatit contained two of most controversial topics in Korean society; public health and prostitution. However, in dealing with these two topics, the media failed to raise rightful questions.News articles opened the victim’s personal information, such as the region where she lived and which school she attended; they laid responsibility on the government’s insufficient disease control or the school that only rushed to hide the fact that one of their students was engaged in prostitution.
While adults were busy blaming each other, nobody acknowledged the fact that the girl was not only a patient but also a victim. No media outlet questioned what led a student to be preyed upon, whether she is currently being protected, or why teens and young adults have become more vulnerable to HIV infections. With SNS making communication easier between teenagers and anonymous sex buyers, teenage prostitution has been growing rapidly inrecent years. As a twenty-year-old student turned out to be the broker who enabled the prostitution, it became evident that the sex trade has become deeply entrenched in the young generation. The spotlight should focus on the societal background that brought about this shameful outcome.
Moreover, the wave of panic was worsened by overblown, sensationalist reports from the media. Most AIDS-related newstended toward lurid titles and plenty of fear mongering onsusceptibility and contagiousness concerning AIDS; somearticles did not even distinguish between Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and AIDS, and planted the wrong impression that AIDS is transmitted easily with even asimple touch. Such biased reports from the media have only resulted in groundless rumors, borne of mounting anxiety and effectively distracting the public from more practical ways of seeking safety.
Korea is especially notorious for lacking understanding about AIDS. For example, still many people do not distinguish between HIV and AIDS, and regard both diseases as deadly. Infact, however, HIV is a virus that causes AIDS, and AIDS develops in only a portion of HIV carriers. Moreover, AIDS is no longer fatal. Patients could live a normal life just like others with adequate treatment although full recovery is not yet possible. According to an HIV research institute, in 2017patients answered that the social stigma is what pains them the most, calling it a “Social Killing.” Most patients had no option but to isolate themselves as they could not continue to engage in economic or social activities.
December 1 is a day dedicated to AIDS patients. Although that day is past, the need for a discussion of this disease and the society that allowed a student to be infected with it still stands. However fearful the people have been of this particular illness, there is no concrete, reasonable grounds they may stand on to properly fight it. The media and the citizens must put aside selfishness and truly look into the truth about AIDS—about the disease itself, first and foremost, but also what allow sit to breed in Korea. Until biases are banished, diseases canonly triumph.