South Korea 's government urged citizens not to buy prostitutes while overseas or risk having their passports seized for such offenses are harming country’s image.
The move came amid public uproar following public revelations recently that high school students bought sex en masse during a school trip to China.
"Based on a consensus that the nation's image is being greatly harmed by sex purchases overseas, the government decided to strengthen a crackdown," said a statement jointly issued by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, the Foreign Ministry, the Justice Ministry and police.
The envisioned passport seizure would be possible if a revision bill to the Passport Act passes parliament. The Cabinet approved the revision Tuesday and is seeking parliament's approval before its session ends late this year.
Under the current law, the government can only refuse to issue new passports to those found to have bought sex abroad. The revision would provide legal ground for passport seizure.
Prostitution is illegal in South Korea, but is widespread despite repeated government crackdowns.
The government said there are an increasing number of South Koreans getting caught overseas for buying sex.
As of August, 53 South Koreans were serving prison terms in foreign countries for the offense, including 21 in China and 19 in the United States, according to government statistics.
In addition, 30 South Koreans were briefly detained for the same offense in China between January and July, a sharp rise compared from 11 for all of last year, statistics showed.