updated 12/25/2006 11:21:19 PM ET 2006-12-26T04:21:19

The South Korean government is handing out gifts for office workers who promise not to visit brothels this holiday season.

“If you promise yourself to make it a healthy night out at the end of the year, and if you recommend this to others, we are giving lots of prizes,” the Ministry of Gender Equality said in an Internet posting.

The ministry is offering to pay companies whose employees pledge not to buy sex after what are typically alcohol-soaked, year-end parties.

A ministry spokesman confirmed the campaign but declined to answer questions about it.

But a ministry official told the Korea Times daily: “Korean corporate culture that includes heavy drinking is also what makes buying sex acceptable as a way for male-bonding, which is proving to be a hard-to-break ritual.”

The ministry is offering movie tickets based on the number of employees who pledge not to visit prostitutes as well as a cash prize of 1 million won ($1,077) for the company which enlists the most employees in the campaign.

Many South Koreans were bewildered by the plan, saying it was a waste of money and gave the impression that South Korean men cannot keep away from brothels.

“Do they really think men buy sex every time they have a dinner party?” wrote one Korean on a comment page of the South Korea’s largest daily Chosun Ilbo.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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