Seoul forum discusses Korean role in sex tourism

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Seoul forum discusses Korean role in sex tourism

An international symposium was held in Seoul on human trafficking and prostitution in Southeast Asian countries, Korea’s role in the industry and on ways of ending the scourge.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family yesterday held the 2013 Prostitution Prevention International Symposium at Seoul Women’s Plaza in Daebang-dong, western Seoul with about 200 experts from the UN, government officials, including Minister Cho Yoon-sun of the gender ministry, and human rights activists from Cambodia, the Philippines and Thailand.

In about seven hours of meetings, the civic groups from Southeast Asia shared case histories of trafficking, prostitution and other forms of sexual abuse and possible measures to combat them.

“The number of trafficked women cases has been constantly increasing over the last few years in Southeast Asian countries,” Professor Aurora Javate de Dios from the Miriam College in the Philippines, said in a keynote speech. “Due to economic inequality and serious poverty, women in Southeast Asian countries had been trying to move to unfamiliar cities to find a job and many of them were trafficked there and forced into prostitution.”

In the Philippines, for example, trafficked women are forced into prostitution at night clubs and illegal massage places for about $50 to $60 per person.

Jean Enriquez, executive director of the Coalition against Trafficking Women Asia Pacific, said prostitutes in the Philippines report that male Korean tourists constitute their biggest foreign customer group followed by Chinese and Japanese.

According to the Philippines Department of Tourism, about 50 percent of the international tourists visiting the Philippines in 2011 were from the three Asian countries. Korea was top of the list with 23.6 percent, followed by China with 16.2 percent and 9 percent from Japan.

“Human trafficking is a serious crime that is spread in many southern Asian countries and we can’t say that Koreans aren’t aggravating such social evils,” said Minister of Gender Equality Cho. “We need stronger measures to root out sex tourism and will cooperate with public institutions and civic groups more.”

The government has been trying to up the level of punishment for people caught as sex tourists. In April, the ministry carried out a plan preventing a person caught soliciting prostitutes overseas from renewing his passport and making some passports invalid. Under the current law, only people who have been deported after being caught soliciting prostitutes overseas are prevented from getting a new passport. About 50 people have lost their passports from 2008 to 2012, according to the Gender Ministry.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Koreans generate about $7 billion in revenue every year overseas for human trafficking and prostitution rings, and about 79 percent of the trafficking is for sexual purposes, with some 13 percent of the prostitution victims being underage.



BY KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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