Sex trade to lead to passport loss

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Sex trade to lead to passport loss

The Korean government yesterday announced administrative steps intended to curtail foreign travel by Koreans for sexual purposes, including the denial of passports for up to three years to anyone found traveling either to engage in prostitution or to use the services of prostitutes. The measures will go into effect next year.

The proposal is partly a reaction to several recent incidents, including one in August, when a group of 47 women was detained as they arrived in Korea from Japan after working there as prostitutes.

The group included models, former athletes and housewives, according to the Busan police.

They were reportedly recruited by brokers who promised them large amounts of money, but some were reportedly treated as little more than slaves.

Busan police said they received 20 million won ($18,400) before they left Korea; once abroad, police said, some were resold to brothels in the countryside when their health deteriorated.

Prosecutors arrested five brokers last month who they say headed the prostitution ring that was also active in the United States, Taiwan and Australia.

Immediately after the detained women were released, however, a few of them left the country. A Busan police official said, “The women who returned to Japan probably returned to prostitution.”

The new measures were the result of work by the ministries of Gender Equality, Justice and Foreign Affairs who were told to come up with measures to stop the travel of both sex workers and their customers and prevent trafficking in women.

Rules now in effect at the Foreign Ministry place no limits on the issuance of a passport except when the applicant has engaged in illegal activities abroad and has been deported.

But Seoul intends to go beyond that step by denying passports to persons known in some manner to have been engaged in prostitution or trafficking, even if the result was not a deportation order from another country.

Under the new measures, passports can be withheld or revoked for periods of one to three years.

Last year, 274 Koreans were arrested for prostitution, soliciting sex or being an agent in any form of sex trade overseas. Only 19 passports were taken away, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Police Agency.

In 2011, 341 were arrested; only five lost their travel documents. From 2008 to 2012, passports were revoked for only about 4 percent of those arrested.

Korea has faced criticism, especially from Southeast Asian countries, for its outbound sex tour trade. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Koreans spend about $7 billion every year overseas on travel for prostitution.

Kim Yong-hwa, a law professor at Sookmyung Women’s University, said, “Rather than just adopting new measures, it is important for policymakers to figure out how to apply them. The key to that is active cooperation among government agencies in order to eradicate prostitution.”



BY SARAH KIM, KIM HYE-MI [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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