중앙데일리

Seoul worries about prostitutes’ exodus to the U.S.

June 20,2006
An internal government report obtained by the JoongAng Ilbo says that a rising number of Korean prostitutes displaced by a crackdown on their trade in Korea are finding their way to the United States. In 2004, laws regulating prostitution were tightened and a police crackdown has driven the once very open trade underground here.
That tendency to look abroad for greener pastures is not just a problem for American law enforcement, the report added. Korea is hoping to be included soon among countries whose citizens are able to travel to the United States for temporary visits without visas. An upsurge in the number of Korean ladies of the night and their handlers working in U.S. cities could prompt the United States to lose interest in a policy that could make it easier for sex workers to travel there.
The report said Los Angeles police estimate that there are 8,000 Korean prostitutes working in that city and its suburbs. Many of those Koreans, the report said, entered the United States through Mexico or Canada. Koreans can travel to Canada without a visa, and the long, undefended border makes it relatively easy for someone to slip across.
The U.S. Department of State included South Korea as one of the countries of “origin, transit and destination of human trafficking” in its latest annual Trafficking in Persons Report, although it lauded government attempts here to stem that trade, citing the 2004 legislation.
The report, which has not been made public, apparently prompted the formation of a committee including the foreign and justice ministries, the national police and the prosecutors to come up with ways of stemming the migration of prostitutes abroad.
U.S. media have noted the increasing number of Koreans arrested for suspected prostitution. On June 30 last year, police arrested 42 handlers and 150 female prostitutes, all women, in Los Angeles and San Francisco. A 400-person team comprising police, FBI agents and immigration authorities were involved in the operation. After that incident, a committee of Korean, American and Canadian government officials was formed to try to find ways of curbing the problem, including how to keep Korean passports out of the hands of sex workers intending to ply their trade abroad.
A Los Angeles police spokesman said that about 90 percent of the department’s 70-80 monthly arrests for prostitution involve Korean women.
In a recent case elsewhere in the United States, 33 Korean women were arrested on prostitution charges in Waterbury, Connecticut, on June 2.
A government investigation conducted with U.S. police, the report said, showed that prostitution is widespread in districts where Koreans congregate, especially in massage parlors and at the Korean equivalent of short-time lodgings, called “love hotels” here. But the report added that the trade is moving out of Koreatowns into inner cities as well; some prostitutes reportedly work from their apartments, stimulating anti-Korean sentiment. An official here said some Korean woman have found it difficult to find apartments to rent.


by Park Sung-hee, Park Sung-woo


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