Due to “Life-Size” Imports, South Korea’s Sex Doll Industry Under Controversy

Due to “Life-Size” Imports, South Korea’s Sex Doll Industry Under Controversy

Beneath an ordinary warehouse located in Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport, hides an office that looks like any ordinary once. But what makes it so different from any other offices are the unopened boxes of lubricants, an ice-cube tray with sockets shaped like a penis, as well as a stuffed toy shaped like a condom, sitting and smiling from the top of a shelf.

The said office is owned by Bururu.com, a sex toy company located in South Korea. The said company is dedicated to change the country’s restrictive import regulations over sex dolls and things alike. 

Bururu.com’s latest victory was their fight to legalize the importation of life-sized sex dolls. Ever since the said company won the case in June 2019, the controversy started emerging. Over 260,000 South Korean citizens have signed a petition on the website of the presidential office. The petition calls to reverse the government’s decision over the importation of life-sized sex dolls, emphasizing that such a thing objectifies women and can possibly lead to increased sex-related crimes.

According to Lee Sang-jin, Bururu.com’s CEO, the more fans that their company attracts also means more haters. He also said that the legalization of life-sized sex dolls importation caused them to get a significant increase in inquiries from people who are interested in buying one.

Apart from sex dolls, the company also sells other sex toys like anal plugs for BDSM restraints and models of a female torso made from silicone. According to Lee, the company’s lower-end sex dolls are imported from China. It has a custom Japanese face and costs around $2,068. 

More commonly known as “real dolls” in South Korea, life-size sex dolls that are imported by Bururu.com are roughly 67 to 88 lbs. and has a height of 5’1” to 5’6” while the cost can be as much as $10,000. And while some men use them for their own sexual fantasies, others style the dolls so they could live out their hidden gender and feminine fantasies.

Lee mentioned that prosthetic vaginas tend to be very popular. He also recalled that it was not until 2008 that the importation of penis-shaped sex dolls was illegal in Korea until 2008 while vagina-shaped sex toys were illegal to import until 2010. Lee further emphasized that legalizing the importation of these sex toys was fought for and won by them.

The growing controversy over life-sized sex dolls

Sex toys have already become normal in South Korea in recent years. Adult shops that sell vibrators for both men and women attracted crowds in the university districts. Furthermore, major retailers that are based in South Korea, Shinsaegae and E-mart for instance, have started selling sex toys in the year 2018. 

According to critics, however, “real dolls” are far from ordinary sex toys and that the government of South Korea is not exactly looking for a sex revolution when it legalized the importation of the human-sized dolls. It can be recalled that in February 2019, the government blocked a total of 895 porn sites. 

Several Twitter users who expressed their disapproval over the legalization of life-sized sex dolls preferred to call these products “rape dolls” instead.

Moreover, the proponents of the petition said that “real dolls” will increase the number of sex crimes, which became a trending topic in light of the #MeToo movement in South Korea.

An excerpt from the online petition questioned whether the government thinks that using sex dolls will reduce sex crime rates. The petitioners also emphasized that people who are not satisfied with a motionless sex object are more likely to commit sex crimes against living women to satisfy their desires.

Kathleen Richardson, the director of the Campaign Against Sex Robots said that there aren’t any possible links between sex dolls and sex crimes. Still, she believes that these sex dolls will still cause harm.

Furthermore, Richardson noted that people are living in a commercial world that is primarily set up in a way that men can access both women’s and children’s bodies. The director also thinks that sex doll consumers do not have empathy for women and children, sex assault, and women’s safety. 

There are also some South Korean groups who are against sex dolls, especially those that tend to have a child-like face. A Korean Women’s Association United’s official who requested to protect her anonymity due to fear said that sex dolls are directly in the same line with misogyny because it treats women like sexual objects. In addition, there are no laws concerning the customization of sex dolls. So, if a man customized one to have a friend’s or a child’s face, he will face no legal charges. 

Moreover, several lawmakers in South Korea are trying to pass additional legislation in hopes to ban the sale and importation of sex dolls with children’s faces. 

As mentioned, sex dolls that are imported by Bururu.com are no less than 5’1’’ in height. However, some reports said that there are some companies that sell dols that ar4e roughly 3’3’’ in height.

The legalities over South Korea’s “real dolls”

From the perspective of the Bururu.com’s owners, buying and using a sex doll is a personal choice. The company’s CEO delivered a backlash regarding the “gender war,” saying that their company also sells sex dolls that are modeled as male. The company’s founder, Lee Joo, mentioned that the removal of restrictions over the importation of life-sized sex dolls cleanses up the arbitrary law and promotes transparency over importers.

Furthermore, Lee Joon said that there are approximately 10 companies in South Korea that import and sell sex dolls. And even though the sex doll industry is shadowed by controversy, Lee Joon believes that there is a very bright future for the sale of these dolls. He is also looking forward to the day where “real dolls” will have a robotic version that can show advanced emotions. Adding up to that, he is also hoping that society will accept these dolls as a diversity of thought. 

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