sex slavery

Facts Everyone Should Know About Human Trafficking

Posted on Updated on

written by gkim

Global Human Trafficking Facts

  • Human trafficking or modern day slavery describes the act of victims being subjected to involuntary servitude, forcing victims into prostitution/sexual slavery/the sex industry, and/or compelling, urging, exploiting, supporting victims to commit sexual acts for the purpose of creating pornography, online sex chats, or stripping—all through abduction, threat, deception, peonage, coercion, debt bondage, abuse of power, forced drug usage, or violence. Human trafficking not only involves sex and labor, but people are also trafficked for organ harvesting.

    Photo Credit:
    Photo Credit:
  • According to the US Department of Justice, there are approximately 27 million to 30 million slaves today, and approximately 79% are exploited sexually, with 18% being categorized as labor trafficking.
  • According to the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children. However, in some parts of the world such as the African or Southeast Asian regions, children are the majority (up to 100% in parts of West Africa or the Mekong Region—Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Southern China, Cambodia).

    Photo Credit:
    Photo Credit:
  • The continent of Asia is the largest supply of human trafficking industry. According to the International Labor Organization, the human trafficking industry generates about 32 billion dollars yearly. Asia contributes 9.7 billion, and 15.5 billion come from other industrialized countries.
  • According to the UN Global Compact Organization, 98% of trafficked victims who are sexually exploited are women and girls. 56% of trafficked victims who are in forced labor/economic exploitation are women and girls.
  • Human Trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world, set to surpass drugs and arms trafficking within the next five years.
  • Globally, the average cost of one slave is $90 USD.
  • According to the U.S. State Department, 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year.
  • Punishment for trafficking humans is lower than for trafficking drugs, and profits for trafficking humans are higher than for trafficking drugs.
  • According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), over the past 30 years, over 30 million children have been sexually exploited through human trafficking.
  • Global warming and severe natural disasters have left millions homeless and impoverished, which has created desperate people easily exploited by human traffickers.
  • The average age of a trafficked victim can range from 12 to 24 years old. However there are children as young as 6 years old being trafficked.

    Photo Credit:
    Photo Credit:
  • Prostitution is illegal in 109 countries, legal in 77 countries, and restricted (selling sex is legal but organized brothels are illegal) in 11 countries. Five countries do not have any laws for prostitution. Prostitution is illegal in almost all Asian countries where human trafficking is the most significant, but laws aren’t enforced properly. Countries that have legalized prostitution in the past have seen an influx in sex trafficking. i.e. Germany, Colombia
  • According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the majority of sex trafficking is international, with victims taken from such places as South and Southeast Asia, the former Soviet Union, Central and South America, and other less developed areas and moved to more developed ones, including Asia, the Middle East, Western Europe, and North America.
  • According to the World Health Organization and US Department of State, sex trafficking plays a major role in the spreading of AIDS. HIV/AIDS represents both a cause and consequence of trafficking for sexual exploitation. Women and children may be more vulnerable to being trafficked if their family members have contracted HIV or have died from AIDS. Women and children who have been trafficked for sexual exploitation are at greater risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS. Once trafficked, women and girls who have been infected with HIV often do not have access to health care services and are deprived of any support as they are often shunned and stigmatized by their communities.
  • Nine out of ten women who escape from North Korea end up being trafficked for sex. It is a destination for trafficking of children, men, and women for sex and labor.

    Photo Credit:
    Photo Credit:
  • A human trafficker can earn 20 times what he or she paid for a girl. Provided the girl was not physically brutalized to the point of ruining her beauty, the pimp could sell her again for a greater price because he had trained her and broken her spirit, which saves future buyers the hassle. A 2003 study in the Netherlands found that, on average, a single sex slave earned her pimp at least $250,000 a year.
  • Amnesty International has reported that NATO soldiers, UN police, and Western aid workers “operated with near impunity in exploiting the victims of the sex traffickers.”
  • Usually, if a sex slave is arrested, she is imprisoned while her trafficker is able to buy his way out of trouble.
  • According to a congressional research service report on child sex trafficking, “It is more profitable for a trafficker to prostitute a child than to commit other crimes such as dealing in drugs.” This is because “the commodity (child) is reusable” and “technological innovation has allowed traffickers to reach a wider client base and connect more quickly with buyers.”
  • Forms of labor trafficking can include domestic servitude, agricultural labor, sweatshop factory labor, janitorial, food, and service industry labor, or begging.
  • Labor trafficking is happening in sugar cane fields, coffee bean plantations, cacao bean harvesting for chocolate, cotton plantations, mica mines, raw iron and metal production, garment factories, brick factories, cell phone manufacturing, and coal mining.
  • According to the World Health Organization, over 10,000 organs are sold ever year, translating to one organ sold every hour.
  • An illegal market has capitalized on these individuals’ desperation, and the prospects of large profits are creating unfortunate incentives, with patients willing to pay up to $200,000 for a kidney.  According to the WHO report, 76 percent of organs sold were kidneys, reflecting the growing demand secondary to complications of high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Doctors and other health-care practitioners, ambulance drivers and mortuary workers are often involved in organ trafficking in addition to those involved in other human trafficking networks. The organs commonly transplanted include kidney, liver, heart, lung and pancreas.
  • In countries like Pakistan, China or India, a person can sell a kidney for $5,000, while those handling the transaction make a substantial profit.
  • The profit for an organ trafficker is 15 times the buying price.
  • According to the UN, the impact of the illegal organ trade is 75 million dollars yearly.

(Few Facts on Sex Trafficking in Korea)

  • According to South Korea’s Ministry for Gender Equality and the Korean Feminist Association, there are anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million victims who are in South Korea’s sex industry today.
  • According to the Korean Institute of Criminology, one-fifth of Korean men buy sex at least four times a month, and Korean men make up the largest ethnic group to seek child prostitutes in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Philippines, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
  • Most trafficked victims in Korea range anywhere from seven to thirty years in age. There is a decline thereafter due to the lack of demand for older women in the sex industry.

    Photo Credit:
    Photo Credit:
  • One majority are child runaways who have been lured into the sex industry through the internet. Most child runaways have either been sexually/physically abused or confined under intense academic pressures. The other majority are native and foreign workers who have been lured with false advertisements of decent jobs over the internet or in local newspapers. Over 90% of child trafficking in South Korea occurs over the internet. Some are voluntary workers who consider the sex industry as a decent way to earn a living.
  • Different reports suggest that the sex industry accounts for anywhere from 1.4% to 3% of the annual GDP in South Korea which is roughly 14 to 30 trillion Korean won (13 to 25 billion USD) a year.
  • Red light districts, massage parlors, juicy bars, image bars, room salons/roombangs (hostess bars), in-call massages, out-call massages, call girl businesses, kissing rooms, lovetels (motels used for sex), karaoke bars, and night clubs are some of the venues and types of trafficking.
  • South Korea prohibits trafficking for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, including debt bondage, through its 2004 “Act on the Punishment of Intermediating in the Sex Trade and Associated Acts.” Although this law is in place, it has not been enforced properly.
  • The Ministry of Justice runs 29 “John schools,” set up to educate male “clients” of prostitution, which are one-day seminars—in lieu of criminal punishment. NGOs report that there is only one counseling center and two shelters in the country dedicated to foreign victims of sex trafficking.

The Magdalena House for Women of the Sex Industry

Posted on Updated on


written by gkim

Recently, I had the honor of meeting OckJeong Lee, chief director of the Magdalena House, who has been running a shelter for trafficked women located in Yongsan, Korea for the past 28 years. She has dedicated her life to serving God by caring for vulnerable women who have been enslaved into brothels. The Magdalena House was first created in 1985 in a wayward shelter by OckJeong Lee as a place of refuge for prostitutes who were seeking a way out of the sex industry. The name was derived from the biblical Mary Magdalene who was persecuted and cursed for being a prostitute however transformed herself through the love of Christ and became one of the most beloved by Jesus. The hope is that these prostitutes will also find and know Christ and have their lives transformed by God as Mary Magdalene did. In 2005, it became a government-funded organization through the Catholic Social Work Coalition. Currently, there are 24 women who are part of the staff at Magdalena.

OckJeong Lee says that she never imagined she would be serving God in this way. She was an insurance broker working in Yongsan back in the eighties when she became witness to something very disturbing. An older man was trying to sexual molest a five year old girl who was sleeping on the floor outside the train station. So she contacted the police immediately, and when they came, the girl’s mother who was a prostitute working at the station’s neighboring red light district, scolded OckJeong Lee for interfering with a stranger’s child. This mother was obviously concerned with the fact that she could have been arrested and jailed for prostitution. Conclusively, the authorities reprimanded the mother for leaving her daughter in the street rather than charge this man with child molestation. OckJeong was dumbfounded at how things panned out after she tried to do, what she believed, was the right thing. This is how she began her service and journey almost three decades ago.

When starting the Magdalena House, one of the primary goals of OckJeong Lee was to discover what the specific needs of these women were and to provide for them as Christ does for us every day. She did not have any intentions of impelling or converting them with her personal religious beliefs of Catholicism. Moreover, she took an open approach to the religions of all of the women, who were mostly shamanists, while dutifully and privately serving under God’s umbrella in her heart. At times, she would even participate (only on the surface) with the shamanistic rituals the pimps and the women would observe such as hiring a shaman to come to a brothel with a pig’s head in order to idolize or worship this object by bowing or praying to it. These rituals were very costly–almost 20,000,000 KRW–and the women were obligated to pay for them. Of course, with her hidden agenda in tow, OckJeong Lee would casually drop lines to the pimps and recommend that they may try a cheaper ritual such as hiring a Catholic priest who could come with food for days at the cost of just 30,000 KRW. Due to her tireless efforts, openness, and dedication, a lot of women have actually ended up finding God and meeting Christ on their own will over the years.

The initial method she implemented in her shelter to meet her objectives in saving these women was to dine together and become closer with them through the nourishment of food. She says that to serve someone food which is well prepared and delicious, in a courteous manner, and to dine together, is a sign of equality and joy amongst human beings and a symbol of respect for one another. The purpose is to give these women a sense of self-worth, completely opposing the protocols of the brothels where the women were forbidden to eat with the pimps as they were seen as too dirty and worthless to
share food with at the same table.

Magdalena House also provides medical, legal, and life counseling. Not only do the women who come through have the option of receiving formal training for skill sets that they can utilize in the workforce, but they are also cherished and surrounded by laughter and joy while living in this shelter. OckJeong Lee says that these women are fully aware that their choices to work at these brothels are not moral or righteous. However the last thing that these women want to hear is confirmation of this very awareness. So instead, she tries to instill a sense of stability as well as fond memories while they are being rehabilitated in her shelter. She does whatever it is to create an atmosphere of homeliness so that these women who sometimes return back to the brothels for whatever reasons, know that they can always come back to a safe house where they will be protected, cared for, respected, nourished, fed, and treated with love. Basically, they start off socializing with each other and eating together. One of the games they play is “go-stop,” which is a popular Korean card game comparable to poker. Due to the extensive eating and socializing, some outsiders have expressed skepticism and had misconceptions of this shelter saying that all they do is eat and play. However, OckJeong Lee says that one must not forget her underlying objective which has not wavered once in the past 28 years, and that is to create a safe, comfortable haven for these women, gain their trust, hinder them from digressing back to prostitution, and create a sense of stability. She says that these baby steps taken by eating and socializing is something that is imperative in obtaining the ultimate goal to liberate these women from the strongholds of sexual labor. Some women go back to these brothels because they are scared. It is all they have known. They have no other life experiences and feel inadequate and unfit for society. Some others who try to earn an honest living end up going back because the money they make is meager compared to what they earned as a prostitute. Even when some of the women do end up going back to the brothels, OckJeong Lee will tell them to make a lot of money and bring back some good meat to share at the dinner table, hoping to instill a reason inside them to return to Magdalena soon. By doing this, she also means to emphasize the equality of income between them all and clarify to the women that their money is not dirty and other people’s money is not any cleaner or better than theirs. Although there are setbacks and digressions through all of these women’s journeys in and out of the Magdalena House, many do end up leaving the brothels for good and enduring their rehabilitations until the end where they become fully ready to move on.

Once the women have spent enough time in this shelter, and they get through a year or so of not returning to the brothels, they become ready to find work and fit into mainstream society. The Magdalena House offers training in different fields of work. There was even a group of brothel workers who volunteered in the Magdalena House’s Field Worker Program in the Philippines. They traveled with OckJeong Lee to aid with the sex trafficking there. She says that there is no woman who can counsel a prostitute better than an ex-prostitute. A few of the current staff members and counselors at the Magdalena House are ex-prostitutes who have turned their lives around and are now guiding others into doing so, too. OckJeong speaks of how these women have cried and framed their first “real” paycheck stubs after being employed at the Magdalena House.

Although there are many successful stories, there have been many outcomes not so positive as well. Some of the women who have gone in and out of the Magdalena House have committed suicide by jumping off a bridge into the Han River, have been struck and killed by venereal diseases, have gotten into accidents, or have even been burned alive in fires ignited by customers with evil intentions. When these types of incidents occur, the Magdalena House contacts their families. Most of the time, their own families try to deny them. Some of these women did not even get the chance to finish elementary school because their families come from poverty. Some were raped in day care centers. Some come from broken homes. The list goes on. When ultimate tragedy strikes and family members are nowhere to be found, OckJeong Lee conducts funerals for these women along with the staff members and the brothel workers. The funerals are handled with so much devotion and care that the brothel workers often tell OckJeong Lee that when they die, they wish to have funerals such as these as well.

Currently the new focus of the Magdalena House is to clear any types of criminal history on public records for these women. The women who have been arrested by policemen have usually been jailed as violators of the law rather than victims. There is a shortage of prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation within the country for victims of the sex industry. There is also a huge discrimination for their pasts. When companies conduct background checks and find out that the job seeker was arrested for prostitution, they refuse to hire them. These ex-prostitutes work hard to become self-sufficient in the shelter—then society ends up rejecting them. OckJeong states that everyone must help them become full-fledged members of society. Just as Jesus accepted us, we should accept them. She says she hopes that just as she got happily “stuck” doing this work for God, she hopes that all of us get happily “stuck,” too. God Bless OckJeong Lee and the Magdalena House!