Since the mid 1990s, more than 5,000 women have been trafficked into South Korea for sexual services for United States servicemen, according to a report from the International Organization for Migration. These trafficked women have typically come from the Philippines, Russia and Eastern Europe and were lured to work as prostitutes in bars frequented by US servicemen stationed in South Korea.
Many of these women live a life similar to that of a slave as they are kept from a regular income, live in horrible conditions, are forced to sell sex, and often face violence. “Hidden fees, charges, employer fines, forced savings and other fees often completely deprive these women of salaried income forcing them to sustain themselves on a commission system based on the sale of drinks, and can virtually turn them into indentured servants,” the report reads.
Some members of Congress wrote a letter to the Department of Defense calling for an investigation of sex trafficking in Korea. In June, the US military stated that it would investigate whether the military’s prohibition on trafficking and prostitution in South Korea is actually being followed.
In June, the US State Department released its Annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, mandated by the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000. Countries were categorized into three tiers based on compliance with the Act and level of government commitment in combating the criminal activity, particularly in the areas of prosecution, victim protection, and public education. South Korea, recognized for its “extraordinary strides” in the past year, advanced from “Tier 3” into “Tier 1.”