Facts Everyone Should Know About the Victims of the Korean Sex Industry

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Photo Credit: stripes.com
Photo Credit: stripes.com

The majority of sex trafficked girls in Korea who attempt to get out of the sex industry after years of victimization, do so between the ages of twenty to thirty years old, according to the statistics posted on the anti-sex trafficking division of the Korean Salvation Army website. This is due to the lack of demand for “older” women whereas children and younger women are much more desired in the sex industry. In its 2010 report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said Korean men were the prime clients of child prostitutes in Korea, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. The U.S. State Department’s annual report on human trafficking also points to Korean men as being the main clients of child prostitutes in Southeast Asia and Pacific islands.

  • Once a girl gets into or is placed into the sex industry, the desire to escape another undesirable situation, far worse than what they have come from, is eminent and just a matter of time. However, as easy as it was to escape their initial situations, they find it almost impossible to do so this time around.
  • Once departure is attempted, the victims are taken captive through coercion using violence, sexual assault, and debt. Continuously extending the victims’ debts is one of the most commonly used methods by traffickers and pimps in order to restrain them from leaving.
  • For many who do escape, they become trapped within their own shame, loss of hope, trauma, drug addiction, lack of employment options, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • There is also a lack of sympathy towards these victims once they are out due to a lack of understanding as to why there is a need to help these women. Most authorities view these women as violators of the law rather than victims. Furthermore, there is a lack of prevention and intervention as well as the inadequacy of protest and voice for victims of trafficking. More action on preventative measures and harsher legislation for sex trafficking is necessary.
  • Due to the silencing of topics such as sex trafficking or male violence against women, there is a noticeable absence in the empowerment of women within all age groups especially in many Korean churches, which result in a type of latency in the Korean community. Not only has the intense educational stance and vigorous academic exercise forced upon young students by most parents in Korea have contributed to increased sex trafficking victimization, the country also has the second highest rate of suicides in the world.
  • In Korea, a punishment for murder is around ten years in prison whereas in another country, it would be a life term. Similarly, the laws for women’s rights are intact however there are no serious ramifications for domestic violence. Male violence against women, especially in a hegemonic and patriarchal society such as the one in Korea transcends into increased sex trafficking with more sex victims who are still in their youths.
  • Churches in Korea can do more within this realm by taking action with legislators to not only create but also enforce harsher laws for crimes of domestic violence than the ones in place. [1]
  • Engaging with legislators is essential as the Korean government will not take initiative towards finding a solution to domestic violence or sex trafficking since they do not view these as urgent or significant problems. As Korea continues to progress and grow as a nation, the sex trafficking industry is also flourishing.
  • Because Koreans were so poor only a few decades ago, money is still a fairly new concept to the country. No one wants to go back to being a third world country therefore people are overworked and turn to the sex industry as an outlet for their high level of stress.
  • During the Korean War, the Korean government wanted to relieve and keep up the morale of the American troops who were deployed into South Korea to help them. So, the government lured women into brothels in areas called Kijichon and Yong Ju Gol where most American army bases were located. Forced and voluntary prostitution in militarism resulted in new terms for women such as Western Princesses, Comfort Women, and Juicy Girls. After the war was over and the troops headed home, the brothels remained open and continued to thrive with the locals and tourists as years passed. Today, it is one of the largest red light districts with huge parking lots that accommodate visitors and customers. The land on which these brothels sit on are owned by the Korean federal government who does nothing to shut these places down as many of them are most likely customers themselves or have been in the past.
  • This issue with the American soldiers who are in Korea mimics the past and brings back the old ghosts of the “comfort women” who were forced into sex slavery for the Japanese soldiers. The only difference between these two instances is that with the most current occurrences, the Korean government has direct involvement in encouraging the Korean women of the nation to submit to the American soldiers in order to keep them satisfied in the country for as long as possible. Nothing has been done to rectify this predicament, and churches in that area have not addressed this problematic situation. An article from the NY Times has stated:

Many former prostitutes live in the camp towns, isolated from mainstream society, which shuns them. Most are poor. Some are haunted by the memories of the mixed-race children they put up for adoption overseas.

Jeon, 71, who agreed to talk only if she was identified by just her surname, said she was an 18-year-old war orphan in 1956 when hunger drove her to Dongduchon, a camp town near the border with North Korea. She had a son in the 1960s, but she became convinced that he would have a better future in the United States and gave him up for adoption when he was 13.

About 10 years ago, her son, now an American soldier, returned to visit. She told him to forget her.

“I failed as a mother,” said Ms. Jeon, who lives on welfare checks and the little cash she earns selling items she picks from other people’s trash. “I have no right to depend on him now.”

“The more I think about my life, the more I think women like me were the biggest sacrifice for my country’s alliance with the Americans,” she said. “Looking back, I think my body was not mine, but the government’s and the U.S. military’s.”

Photo Credit: nytimes.com
Photo Credit: nytimes.com
  • Typically, the government’s stance on the domestic violence and sex trafficking issues are not those of abolition but more towards decreasing the spreading of sexual diseases between sex workers.
  • Prostitution is illegal in South Korea, and the government has verbalized the need to recognize the women as victims and not perpetrators. However these victimized women who need mental, medical, emotional, and post-trauma relief once they have been released from bondage have had to endure harsh stigmatization, depression, rejection from society, shame, and prosecution for violating laws.
  • As for the service towards the American troops stationed in Korea, no word yet on any type of retribution or rehabilitation for the women who were coerced into slavery for the “good” of the country.

God, help Korea and the Korean communities around the world.


[1] in 1997: the Special Act on Domestic Violence (referred to as the “Punishment Act”), and the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Victim Protection Act (“Protection Act”). Once the ‘Punishment Act’ and the ‘Protection Act’ were enacted.

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Facts Everyone Should Know About the Korean Church and the Sex Industry

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written by gkim

red-cross-in-koreaCurrently, the majority of Korean and Korean-American churches do not directly address the issues of sex trafficking to their ministry or congregation therefore contributing even more to the societal taboos in the Korean culture. Onnuri English Ministry, led by Pastor Eddie Byun, is one of the only churches in S. Korea that adamantly prays for and incorporates this issue into their ministry duties as well as during the weekly sermons. Onnuri English Ministry’s justice ministry Hope Be Restored, which Pastor Eddie Byun founded, is a model for how other churches can set up their own justice ministries.

Korean and Korean-American churches must adopt the positions of initial prevention or intervention as the government policies which are in place fail to effectively do so. More responsibility should be taken upon by and distributed amongst the ministry to expose these issues by implementing systematic guidelines and discussion openly and outwardly with its congregation on a regular basis. This is essentially necessary for the Korean society which has become so immersed into the sex industry that it’s practically a silent part of the culture. Relying on the government to take on this task is effective only to a certain point. Although the U.S. government has taken increased measures on eradicating and eliminating the trafficking industry, the sex industry itself is growing out of control. Also government officials can only go so far with aftercare. God heals people. People cannot heal each other. But we can help others become closer to God so that they may be healed. The church can increase awareness within youth to adult age groups as well as through outreach programs incorporating detailed education of the dangers and consequences of sex trafficking . It is imperative to incorporate these types of teachings in the church as pedagogies do not yet do so in Korea. The church needs to place more emphasis on the sanctity of justice, faith, spirituality, and divinity by starkly contrasting these virtues over elitist education, economic status, materialism, and competition in the Korean society. Educating the youth about the sacredness of virginity in both males and females is also necessary however with the current statistical data, it is clear that there must be a much more aggressive approach to educating men about the sanctity of  virginity and marriage as Korean men are the number one seekers of child prostitutes in Asia according to the U.S. State Department’s annual report on human trafficking. Since the church is silent in regards to sexual matters, and sex talks are usually taboo in the general Korean society, it becomes problematic for the future of Korea. When the church does not address current societal issues about the sex industry, the industry then grows and becomes more sustainable and resilient against the small population of abolitionists who are working to fight against the violence against women within modern day slavery. Young Christians especially need to be educated separately in an orientation on a regular basis so that they do not fall into the pitfalls of the sex industry.

iStock_000038087176SmallChildren of Korean descent are confined into a robotic education system starting at a very young age. The stress from an overload of information and highly competitive society actually work against the youth than for them, particularly in many instances of broken or abuse-ridden homes. The church should not only take an educational approach in trying to prevent and decrease the number of  teenage runaways by utilizing educational tools in the ecclesia, but the ministry leaders must also be aggressive in meeting with legislators and getting Congress involved to create harsher laws and punishments for violence in the home that instigates children to flee their own homes as well. Churches must be more open and vocal towards violence against women issues period. When churches do not address such issues on a regular basis, this sends a message to the victims of abuse that these types of topics are shameful and should be kept locked in the home. The children who are born into homes with domestic violence become witness to their mothers being subjugated to physical violence and doing nothing about it. Therefore, this contributes to more instability within the children and further escalates the possibilities of running away from home, which thus leads to increased child slavery and sex trafficking. There are many churches that take this one step further and preach about forgiveness and submission on the woman’s part. This results in problems within the home remaining stagnant. It also increases the chances that the children in these families will grow up to be just like their abusive fathers or submissive mothers. This further perpetuates the vicious cycle of teenage runways who end up in the sex industry.

If these issues are openly discussed during sermons on a weekly basis, this can directly target the perpetrators in the church and clearly expose the ramifications for this type of behavior. The ministry needs to make it clear that any type of violence against women will not be tolerated. They should reach out to victims or intervene through the power of divinity openly and outwardly so that female victims may benefit and go through a process of healing from prayer and hearing the word of God.

Victims of sex trafficking who have post-traumatic disorder or other types of mental and emotional trauma typically take three to ten years to adjust and assimilate back into a normal life. This duration can potentially be dramatically decreased through spiritual healing programs in the church. Thus, the church can become a voice for those who are suffering silently. To conclude, through types of sometimes condoned violence against women in Korea, the sex trafficking industry has also quietly been adopted and grown into mainstream culture. The country’s economy and corporate designations have become intertwined with trafficking. Many people may frown upon the fact that a church would take upon such issues and publicize them–saying that the church should only focus on the gospel. But, this is a skewed perception of Christianity. We, as Christians, should show the world what God’s justice and love can do! It is inexcusable that churches do not make it a priority to end modern day slavery in Korean society which is driven by the sex industry. Churches should enforce more education and move towards progression with legislation and outreach through the ministry as this is an ecclesial injustice as well as a social injustice.

Hope Be Restored, a Powerful Justice Ministry, Serving God Around the World

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written by gkim

hbrPastor Eddie Byun, the leading pastor at Onnuri English Ministry and founder of Hope Be Restored (a justice ministry and an anti-sex trafficking organization) in Seoul, Korea, has really paved the way and broken down barriers to publicize and fight against sex trafficking in Korea. When God first unveiled this injustice to him, he was incredibly moved and hyped to rectify this enormous problem in the nation. The number of human slaves including children were staggeringly high. As he sought out different avenues and numerous people who might be of great help with this issue, many opportunities opened up to him fairly quickly, and this solidified even more for him that this was something that was conquerable and fixable. Initially, one of the largest opportunities he was given was a meeting with the president’s top aide. He felt as if this would be a divine meeting and that naturally, the aide would come to view this as vehemently as he did. So, as anyone in this position would, he carefully prepared his speech as if he were directly speaking to the president.

Once the meeting began, Pastor Eddie presented the issues at hand with all ineradicable facts, stats, and evidence of not only sex trafficking including child trafficking but labor trafficking in South Korea as well. Once he was done, he expected the aide to be as fired up and revived as he was, perhaps being stirred with a new awakening and outlook on life in Korea and feel an escalating desire and determination for justice in the country. However, the reaction and response that Pastor Eddie received was exactly the opposite from what he had expected, and this left him absolutely speechless and dumbfounded.

“Why are you doing this Eddie?” asked the president’s top aide when the presentation and speech were over.

Naturally, Pastor Eddie was flabbergasted at this question. Wasn’t it blatantly clear that there was a huge problem in Korea, and wasn’t the evidence he had laid out sufficient enough to strike a nerve within anybody? Wouldn’t anyone want to seek justice for the oppressed in this nation after finding out that it is a proven fact that Korean men seek child prostitutes in Asia more than any other ethnic group? Didn’t he care for the women and children of this nation, especially as a person in a position of power?

“Eddie, everyone does it. Every guy at least,” said the aide. “I’m sure you did before you were married, too.”

“No,” responded Pastor Eddie incredulously. The aide walked out of the room, and the meeting was concluded.

Thus, this is how the fight against human slavery began for Pastor Eddie many, many years ago, and it has been a very long and difficult journey thus far. But miracles do happen every single day, through the blessings of the Lord, and I’m so proud to speak of Pastor Eddie because through him, a lot of work has been done in Guro and Yongsan, two of the most populous places for sex trafficking and child sex slavery as well as around Asia. Presently, Korean government officials have actually begun to open up publicly and admit to and address the problems of trafficking in and out of Korea thanks to Pastor Eddie’s diligence and immense efforts. There is still a long road ahead for complete abolition to occur as there are over a million women and child slaves in Korea alone and more than 27 million human slaves around the world today. God has really used Pastor Eddie to initiate the fight in South Korea and all around Asia.

Recently, Pastor Eddie’s first book titled Justice Awakening was published and released for sale in Korean. The English version will be out in 2014.

justice-awakening

Since the fight has been initiated in South Korea, and the road has been paved for those who wish to join or continue to seek freedom and justice to those whose lives have been affected by human trafficking in Korea, spreading this awareness is imperative for growth and justice. And although there is still a long way to go, Pastor Eddie has not wavered or faltered once in leading others to rise up and initiate action for the people of this country. He has been and is the go-to person in Korea for all advice and spiritual enlightenment on this subject. Many who come to this country seek him out first before heading to any governmental agencies as he is one of the only pastors in Korea who adamantly prays about and speaks on this subject in his sermons and through his anti-sex trafficking organization, Hope Be Restored, which I am so proud to be a part of. God is making great things happen through Pastor Eddie as he continues to strive for God’s will to be done on Earth. I am so humbled and feel so fortunate to have met such an amazing pastor and a true fellow abolitionist in the fight against modern slavery. Thank you so much Pastor Eddie and may God’s glory and strength continue to shine upon you! Praise the Lord!