SEOUL, South Korea - Hundreds of South Korean sex workers have rallied to call for the abolishment of laws that toughened the punishment for prostitution.

About 1,600 prostitutes and pimps chanted slogans calling for the laws to be scrapped at a rally in Seoul on Thursday. The prostitutes mostly wore baseball caps, sunglasses and masks to hide their identities.

Police said the rally was peaceful.

Prostitution is illegal in South Korea, but is widespread despite repeated government crackdowns.

South Korea enforced tougher anti-prostitution laws in 2004, driving thousands of prostitutes and pimps out of business.

Earlier this year, police launched intensified crackdowns on several brothels in Seoul and other cities, sparking violent protests.