Koreans held responsible for islands’ sex industry
The National Youth Commission charged yesterday that Korean fishermen are largely responsible for the existence of a teen prostitution industry in Kiribati, a small island nation in the South Pacific.
The commission said it conducted an investigation last month in Tarawa, Kiribati’s capital, after the United Nations Children’s Fund said that Koreans were sexually exploiting children in the South Pacific.
“In Kiribati, tourism has not developed like other countries,” said an official at the commission, which is under the authority of Korea’s prime minister. “So there hasn’t been prostitution there until recently. Prostitution in Kiribati seems to have been started by Korean fishermen.”
The commission said its investigators spoke to young Kiribati women and girls who had been involved with Korean fishermen. Investigators said they found dozens of underage prostitutes working in bars that the fishermen frequented.
The commission said that Kiribati teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 told them that fishermen solicited them in the bars. They normally received cash, cigarettes, bottles of alcohol or clothes for sexual services, according to the commission.
Some of the girls have borne fishermen’s children, according to the commission.
The commission said it plans to extend its investigations throughout the South Pacific with the assistance of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The Korea Deep Sea Fisheries Association, an association of fishermen, responded, “We contact the government of Kiribati to negotiate on fishery business every year, and they never brought up that issue. We need to find out whether the commission’s allegations are true.”
Kiribati is made up of 33 islands and has a population of 103,000. Tarawa accomodates fishermen from numerous countries. About 140 Korean fishing vessels fish in Kiribati waters every year.
by Hong Joo-hee