[Editor's view]Today’s sex slave tragedyIn his poem “Parting creates beauty” Han Yong-un wrote “There is no beauty of parting in the ephemeral gold of the morning; nor in the seamless black silk of night.”
Han was talking about the pain of separation and there are few agonies more profound that being forced to live in slavery, never to see one’s family again.
Lola, from Kosovo, was 17 when she accepted a job as a teacher’s assistant. Instead of introducing her to a class of toddlers, Lola’s “recruiter” took her to a house where she was forced to work as a prostitute. On the first day of her captivity she was “broken” in a “test drive,” during which six men raped her.
Lola was one of thousands who were forced into prostitution last year. She was sent to work in Israel, according to Victor Malarek, who chronicled her story in his groundbreaking book, “The Natashas.” Malarek also identified women who had been trafficked into Korea.
Sex slaves live among us. There are hundreds of women in Korea who live in sexual servitude. According to Dr. June Lee at the International Organization for Migration in Seoul, women from the Phillipines and the former Soviet Union are still being lured into Korea on a daily basis, despite tougher laws against prostitution and sex tourism.
Parents in Korea, the Phillipines, Russia and a host of other countries are shedding tears for young girls who are currently being abused, in Korea and elsewhere, in ways that are unimaginably unpleasant.
In 2001 the U.S. State Department, in its annual report on human trafficking, classified Korea as one of 23 countries that did not meet minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Korea has since been removed from the list, but that decision is under constant review.
In its 2006 report, the State Department identified Korea as “a destination country for women who are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation.” It named Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, China, the Phillipines and Thailand as the sources of women trafficked here.
And there is another aspect of this issue. Women are now being enslaved in cyber space, as well as in dingy brothels. According to the National Police Agency, there is huge demand for Internet pornography in Korea. Those who use porn sites, and pay for them with their credit cards, are often putting money into the pockets of people who kidnap women and force them to perform sex acts in front of a video camera.
There have also been reports that Korean-American gangsters have lured young Korean girls to Los Angeles and New York, where they are forced to become prostitutes. The State Department report said that Korean women are currently being “trafficked to Japan and the United States, sometimes via Canada and Mexico, for forced prostitution.”
The global problem of sexual slavery is growing. According to the International Organization of Migration, between 800,000 and 1 million women are trafficked into slavery each year. Korea may represent only a small part of this problem, but its hands are not clean.
Korea now has an opportunity to play an important leadership role on this issue, attacking sexual slavery wherever it exists. The State Department’s 2006 report praised Korea’s increased efforts to protect victims and remarked that the anti-trafficking law passed in 2004 has sent “a clear message that [Korea] is serious about taking action against a crime that went largely unpunished in the past.” However, there are still foreign women being forced into servitude here. And there are still Korean girls suffering rape and abuse in U.S. and Japanese brothels, so there is more to be done, especially when it comes to eliminating the demand for prostitutes.
This is largely down to men. It is men who use sex slaves, it is overwhelmingly men who objectify women through Internet pornography and support a whole new industry devoted to their servitude. A woman forced to become a sex slave is somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister. Somewhere, she may have a father or a brother who cries for her. Every man, especially those with daughters or sisters, should remember this if they are ever tempted to use a prostitute. So long as sexual slavery persists nobody can claim that civilization has triumphed. The 2007 U.S. State Department report on Human Trafficking will be released next month. Officials should study its assessment of Korea and do all they can to implement its recommendations.
*The writer is a deputy editor of the JoongAng Daily.
by Daniel Jeffreys