the Smuggling and Trafficking of Korean Women to the United States:
A Preliminary Study
By Timothy C. Lim, Associate ProfessorDepartment of Political ScienceCalifornia State University, Los Angelese-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prepared for the IOM Seoul Public Symposium on Korean Victims of Trafficking
July 6, 2006 . Seoul, Korea
THIS IS A WORKING DRAFT
Do not cite or circulate without author’s permission
In 2000, there were at least 7 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States.1 Of this number, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) estimated that about 55,000were from Korea. The actual number, however, may be much higher. Eun Sook Lee,Executive Director of National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NKASEC), believes that (in 2006) there were 50,000 unauthorized Korean immigrants inSouthern California alone.2 Whatever the precise number, it is clear that the United Statesremains a major destination for Korean immigrants, both legal and undocumented. In fact,from the 1970s through the 1980s, Koreans represented the third largest group of newimmigrants to the United States, and in 2000, they were the seventh largest group of foreign-born residents in the country with a population of 864,000.3 In terms of unauthorized immigration, Korea is also ranked high: among all countries, Korea ranked 15th; whileamong Asian countries specifically, only China and the Philippines had more unauthorizedimmigrants in the United States than Korea (see Table 1 below).
Such numbers, while certainly useful, do not tell us everything we need to knowabout the nature or character of Korean immigration to the United States, and theyparticularly do not tell us about the character of unauthorized immigration. Why, forexample, does the inflow of unauthorized immigration from Korea remain relatively high?Indeed, this is something of an anomaly, for with the exception of Canada.which shares a6,400 kilometer-long border with the United States (and very relaxed entry rules).the othermajor sources of unauthorized immigration are all poor or developing countries. Mexico, the“richest” of these countries, had a per capita PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) of $10,000 in2005, while Korea’s per capita PPP was more than twice as high at $20,400. The anomalous
1 The INS estimates of unauthorized immigrants refer to foreign-born persons who entered the UnitedStates “without inspection or who violated the terms of a temporary admission and who have not acquired LPRstatus or gained temporary protection against removal by applying for an immigration benefit. For example, thefollowing foreign-born persons are not considered to be unauthorized residents in these estimates: refugees,asylees, and parolees who have work authorization but have not adjusted to LPR status; and aliens who areallowed to remain and work in the United States under various legislative provisions or court rulings.” Office ofPolicy and Planning (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service), “Estimates of the Unauthorized ImmigrantPopulation Residing in the United States: 1990 to 2000” (no date). Available at http://www.uscis.gov/ graphics/shared/aboutus/statistics /Ill_Report_1211.pdf.
2 Quoted in Daniel B. Wood, “U.S. Immigrants Mobilizing for Major ‘Action,’” Christian Science Monitor, April 10, 2006. Available at http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0410/p01s01-ussc.html.
3 Jennifer Yao, “Foreign Born from Korea in the United States,” Migration Information Source(December 1, 2004). Available at http://www.migrationinformation.org/USFocus/display.cfm?ID=273#2.
character of unauthorized immigration by Koreans appears even more perplexing in certainareas, including, most saliently, the area of smuggling and trafficking in the prostitutionindustry: within the United States, most foreign women in the prostitution industry are fromrelatively poor or economically distressed countries in Latin America, Eastern Europe andRussia, and Southeast Asia. Yet, by most accounts, Korean women constitute asignificant.and disproportionately large.part of the prostitution industry in the UnitedStates. This tells us that there is something unusual, albeit not necessarily unique, aboutKorea. It suggests, for example, that despite the country’s relative prosperity, segments of thepopulation remain highly marginalized and vulnerable. Consider, on this point, the followingpassage from Asian American Women: Issues, Concerns and Responsive Human and CivilRights Advocacy:
Trafficking in women flourishes in direct proportion to the growing economic inequity
between the developing countries of the South and the industrialized countries of the
North. Traffickers recruit women in the most impoverished countries where
unemployment is high, women have unequal access to employment opportunities,
safety nets are nonexistent, and social networks are disintegrating. Denied access to the
formal economy, poor women increasingly migrate alone across international borders
to support families. Barred from legal immigration because of limited visas issued by
receiving countries, women are easily recruited and deceived into traveling with
organized crime members to factory jobs, domestic work, and sex work.4
The preceding passage, it should be noted, tends to conflate trafficking, smuggling andindividual migration (an issue I will return to below), but the basic point is clear: in certaineconomic sectors.most prominently, the prostitution industry, but also in domestic workand in “sweatshop” labor.unauthorized migration generally involves a one-way flow fromthe most impoverished countries to the most developed countries.
There are several possible explanations for the seemingly unique character ofunauthorized Korean immigration to the United States. In the prostitution industry inparticular, historical ties.and particularly U.S.-Korean military relations.may offer part ofthe answer. A 2002 study by Hughes, Chon and Ellerman notes that traffickers and smugglersroutinely pay U.S. military personnel to bring Korean women into the U.S. through shammarriages. 5 In other cases, traffickers and pimps target Korean women who are abandonedor divorced by U.S. military personnel. 6 Indeed, Hughes et al. suggest that most Korean women who end up working in the U.S. prostitution industry had a prior relationship.andusually a marriage.with a U.S. soldier once stationed in Korea. While their evidence isanecdotal, it is persuasive: “I don’t recall ever having interviewed a Korean prostitute in thiscountry”, one INS agent stated, “that was not in the country as a result of being married to anAmerican serviceman.”7 Recent changes in Korean laws on prostitution may provide anotherpart of the answer. In 2004, the Korean government enacted the Sex Trade Prevention Act,which is ostensibly designed to protect “victims” of prostitution (i.e., the prostitutes), whilepenalizing clients, brothel owners and pimps. The problem with the law, according to SealingCheng, is that it only protects women who want to leave the prostitution industry, but not
4 Lora Jo Foo, Asian American Women: Issues, Concerns and Responsive Human and Civil RightsAdvocacy (New York: Ford Foundation, 2002), p. 48.
5 Donna M. Hughes, Katherine Y. Chon, and Derek P. Ellerman “Modern Day Comfort Women: The
U.S. Military, Transnational Crime, and the Trafficking of Women” (2002), p. 9. Available at
http://www.uri.edu/artsci/wms/hughes/modern_day_comfort_women.pdf.6 Ibid. 7 Ibid.
those who want to stay: “Only ‘victims’ who have been coerced into the sex trade are eligiblefor services. Yet those who cannot prove their victimhood, such as independent sex workers,could be charged with violating the law, and penalized.”8 The upshot is that many Koreanprostitutes are being forced out of Korea in order to earn a living, with the United States asone of many possible destinations.9 Of course, this explanation can only account for anincrease in unauthorized immigration of Korean “sex workers”10 since late 2004, but theexplanation is still worthy of consideration.11 It is also possible.and highly probable.that acombination of factors is at play. Korea’s close post-war ties with the United States, whichhas led to the development of a large immigrant community.a tiny, but significant part ofwhich revolves around illicit smuggling and trafficking activities.combined with economicand socio-cultural factors, may have created an environment conducive to sex trafficking.
Purpose and Scope of the Study
There are, no doubt, other plausible explanations. The main purpose of this paper, however,is not to provide a definitive explanatory account of the unique character of unauthorizedKorean immigration to the United States. This will be the focus of subsequent research,although I will address the issue of “causes” in a later section. Instead, the primary purpose ofthe present paper is to provide an overview and (very) preliminary analysis of the traffickingand smuggling of Korean women to the United States. The scope of this paper, I shouldemphasize, is limited to the trafficking and smuggling of Korean women in the prostitution orsex industry. This limitation does not imply that other forms of trafficking or smuggling areinsignificant or unimportant, but reflect the core objectives of the larger research project ofwhich this paper is a part. A third limitation is geographic: this paper will generally, albeitnot exclusively, focus on the western part of the United States. This reflects a practicaldivision of labor within the larger research project: because of the sheer size of the UnitedStates, it was decided that two scholars would conduct research on trafficking/smuggling inthe United States, one focusing primarily on the western part and the other on the easternpart. Professor Sealing Cheng will focus on the eastern United States.
This paper also has one important subsidiary goal. Namely, it is designed to raisequestions for further examination and inquiry through a review of existing studies and of theavailable data. One such question is already evident: to what extent does the history of U.S.-South Korean military relations explain the relatively high proportion of Korean womenworking in the American prostitution industry? If such marriages no longer provide theprimary source of trafficking and smuggling.which seems to be the case.then what does?Other questions revolve around the nature of the trafficking and smuggling process. How, forinstance, are most Korean women brought into the United States.what are the major routes
8 Sealing Cheng, “Korean Sex Trade ‘Victims’ Strike for Rights,” Asia Times, December 22, 2004.Available at http://www.atimes.com/.
9 In an interview with Mother Jones magazine, Cheng identifies Macau and Hong Kong as two possibledestinations, but it is not difficult to imagine that the United States would be another significant destinationgiven already-established trafficking and smuggling networks. See Lisa Katayama, “Sex Trafficking and ZeroTolerance,” Mother Jones, May 4, 2005.
10 I understand the term “sex worker” is controversial. The use of the term in this sentence, however, ismeant to emphasize the position of some scholars and activists that “prostitution” is a form of labor.
11 There is some evidence, however, that the change in Korea’s law regarding prostitution did lead to asignificant increase in Korean women leaving the country for the purposes of prostitution. One Korean policeofficer, for example, stated, “It seems that since the Special Law on Prostitution went into effect, the number ofpimps and prostitutes going abroad is skyrocketing. But we don’t have the full picture since most leave thecountry ostensibly for tourism.” Quoted in “Exodus of Sex Trade Workers to Canada,” Asian Pacific Post (July7, 2005). Available athttp:www.asianpacificpost.com/portal2/pageView.html?id=402881910674eba010674f56f1b1bf3.
and what are the major destinations? Why are certain routes selected and to what extent canthey be closed? Who are the traffickers and smugglers? Are they large-scale organizedcriminal organizations and networks centered only on prostitution? Or are theycomprehensive crime organizations involved in a full range of illicit activities? Equallyimportant are questions centered on methods of recruitment and control. How do women inKorea find out about prostitution jobs in the United States? How much personal freedom dothey have once they are placed in the prostitution-based enterprises? One last and extremelyimportant area of inquiry.one that underlies all other areas.is the practical distinctionbetween smuggling and trafficking.
This paper will, I should stress, provide some tentative answers to these and other questions. But, it is critical to understand that the answers can be no more than tentative and,to a certain degree, speculative because of the lack of supporting data. This is precisely whythe subtitle of this paper is “A Preliminary Study.” With all this in mind, this paper will beorganized in the following manner. First, I will very briefly discuss the analytical distinctionbetween smuggling and trafficking, two important types of unauthorized immigration. I willalso discuss individual migration in order to provide a larger context in which to viewunauthorized migration. Second. I will address a number of basic issues regarding themagnitude, scope, and sources of Korean sex trafficking and smuggling to the United States.Third, I will examine the trafficking and smuggling process, focusing on the major routes,methods of recruitment, and methods of control. Included in this discussion will be a focus onkey agents in the trafficking and smuggling process. Finally, I will address the causes of sextrafficking and smuggling, looking at both “push” (supply) and “pull” (demand) factorsspecifically in relation to South Korean women.
Smuggling, Trafficking, and Individual Migration
As I noted above, the scope of this paper is largely limited to two types of unauthorizedimmigration: smuggling and trafficking. A third far more common type.or rathersource.of unauthorized immigration is individual migration. Individual migration, as theterm implies, is a primarily individual decision. It may be as simple as getting on plane andflying to the United States. A key characteristic of individual migration is the mode of entry:individual migrants typically enter the United States voluntarily and legally.that is, on theirown volition and with a proper visa and with all the necessary documents for internationaltravel. By itself, then, this type of immigration is neither illegal nor unauthorized, which is akey reason it is not directly included in the scope of this paper. Once in the United States,however, individual migrants may find work or engage in other activities in violation of theirvisa status. When this occurs, they become unauthorized immigrants. In addition, it isimportant to understand that individual migrants, for reasons I will discuss below, canbecome involved in trafficking after they arrive in the United States. From the foregoingdiscussion, therefore, it is clear that individual migration.while not a type of illegal orunauthorized immigration.can be an important source; moreover, to the extent thatindividual migration becomes entangled in the trafficking process, it can be indirectlyincluded in the scope of this paper.
Smuggling shares some similarities with individual migration, the most significant ofwhich is that those who are smuggled do so voluntarily. In addition, as with individualmigration, smuggling generally revolves around the transportation phase of migration12.i.e.,the actual movement from one country to another. In this regard, individual migration and
12 The Florida State University, Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, Florida Responds toHuman Trafficking (Florida Department of Children and Families, 2003), p. 11. Available athttp://www.cahr.fsu.edu/the%20report.pdf
smuggling are also connected in that, once an unauthorized immigrant enters a new country,she may be free to find whatever work or engage in whatever activities she desires. On theother hand, smuggling is never an individual effort: a smuggled individual requires assistanceto enter another country usually because she cannot obtain the necessary documents, or isotherwise unwilling or unable to comply with normal visa procedures for legal entry. For thisreason, individuals who enter a country with the assistance of smugglers are in a dependentand usually very vulnerable position; thus, while their decision to enter a country illegallymay be voluntary, it is one often (although not necessarily) fraught with danger, either fromthe mode of entry (e.g., packed into a poorly ventilated shipping container) or from thesmugglers themselves. Indeed, the potential danger of smuggling is severely heightened bythe nature of smuggling enterprises, which are often run by Asian, Mexican, and EasternEuropean organized crime networks.13 This alone makes smuggling a meaningfully differentprocess than individual migration, for, in transit, as one study on forced labor aptly put it,“power is displaced between … [smugglers] and migrants to create an ongoing relationshipof dependency.”14 Because of this displacement of power, moreover, it is sometimes difficultto distinguish between a situation of voluntary movement and involuntary or coercedmovement. In other words, the process of smuggling can often and in almost seamlessfashion turn into a situation of trafficking.
Given the foregoing discussion, it is easy to surmise the basic difference betweenindividual migration and smuggling, on the one hand, and trafficking on the other hand. Toput it in the simplest terms, trafficking must, at some level, require the involuntaryparticipation of individual immigrants. The legal definition, of course, is more formal. In theUnited States, which uses a fairly narrow definition by international standards, theTrafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines trafficking as either:
Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion,or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for laboror services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjectionto involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. 15
From the foregoing a definition, it should be apparent how trafficking differs from the othertwo forms of unauthorized immigration discussed above. The most basic difference is thattrafficking.and specifically human trafficking.is much more than simply the illegalmovement or transport of people across or within borders; instead, it involves a particulartype of relationship. The authors of one report on human trafficking explain it this way:
A very different dynamic evolves in a human trafficking operation. As is the case withsmuggling, the foreign national may once again be provided assistance in order to entera country illegally. Human trafficking, however, is premised upon a continuing and
13 Free the Slaves, Washington, D.C, and the Human Rights Center of the University of California,Berkeley, “Hidden Slaves: Forced Labor in the United States,” Berkeley Journal of International Law, vol. 23,no. 47 (2005), p. 61.
14 Ibid., p. 87. The original phrase, I should note, is “… power is displaced between traffickers and migrants…” (emphasis added); however, it is clear from the context of the passage that the authors were alsoreferring to the process of smuggling as defined here.
15 Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-386, Div. A, 114 Stat.1464, enacted October 28, 2000. Division A of this law is referred to as The Trafficking Victims ProtectionAct of 2000 (“TVPA”). Cited in Florida Responds, p. 12.
exploitative relationship with the victim. The victim most often remains under the
control of the trafficker long after entering the new country. The fees owed by the
victim to the trafficker for the smuggling aspect of the operation are rarely acquitted at
once or prior to the illegal entry. The heart of the human trafficking enterprise, in fact,
lies in precisely the opposite dynamic: its very purpose is to extend and even increase
the debt that the victim owes to the trafficker.16
To sum up: individual migration and smuggling are voluntary acts; the latter almost alwaysinvolves illegal entry into a country, while the former is often accomplished through legalmeans. Trafficked persons may also begin their trip voluntarily, but coercion or fraud mayturn them into trafficking victims. It is in this regard that the line between smuggling andtrafficking.and even between individual migration and trafficking.can become veryblurred. For smuggled persons and individual migrants (who work illegally) are in aninherently vulnerable position: their undocumented status leaves them open to highlyexploitative relationships that may be very difficult to escape. This is the crux of the issue:when unauthorized immigrants are not free to leave an employment situation, they becomepart of the trafficking process. “The litmus test for distinguishing their situations from thoseof trafficking victims”, according to the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights atFlorida State University, “is their ability to walk away from their worksites of their ownvolition.”17 While this sounds clear-cut, in practice, it is sometimes very difficult to determinewhen an individual really has the ability to walk away from a workplace of her ownvolition.e.g., an individual subject to psychological coercion or manipulation may beincapable of acting of her own volition.18
On a more mundane level, consider a woman who voluntarily decides to be smuggledinto the United States to work in the prostitution industry. To do so, she may accumulate alarge high-interest debt to transporters and smugglers.often exceeding $15,000. Moreover,this sometimes occurs without her knowledge. Paying off the debt, in an important sense,becomes a mandatory part of the job: until the debt is paid in full, the woman is not allowedto “walk away” from her worksite, although, once the debt is paid, it is possible to leave. Isthis a situation of smuggling or of trafficking? In addition, in the United States, traffickingstatus is generally premised on the willingness of “survivors” to cooperate with federal lawenforcement authorities. Only federal law enforcement personnel, for example, may requestcontinued presence for trafficking survivors, and while survivors may apply on their own fora “T” visa,19 they must be over fifteen years old must and document that they are cooperatingwith law enforcement.20 In other words, the litmus test for distinguishing situations oftrafficking from other situations, is not merely the ability of a woman to walk away from aworksite of her own volition, but also the willingness to cooperate with federal lawenforcement authorities.
The Trafficking and Smuggling of Korean Women in the United States: Sources,Magnitude, and Scope
Analytical distinctions are important, but equally important is developing an understanding ofthe primary sources and magnitude of sex trafficking and smuggling. Unfortunately, this iseasier said than done. For even in countries, such as the United States, with highly developed
Florida Responds, p. 20.
17 Ibid., p. 21.
18 “Hidden Slaves,” p. 71.
19 The T visa is a new visa category created by the TVPA. It is limited to victims of “severe forms ofhuman trafficking.”
20 Ibid., p. 72.
law enforcement and surveillance capabilities, the ability to keep track of smuggling andtrafficking operations is extremely.and perhaps surprisingly.limited. As we saw above, noone knows how many unauthorized Korean nationals live and work in the United States.Indeed, the official government estimate may be a much as two, three, four or even ten timestoo low.21 The statistics on Korean women trafficked and smuggled into the prostitutionindustry are equally, if not even more nebulous. The study by Hughes et al. mentioned above,for example, does not provide any estimate on the total number of Korean women involved inthe prostitution industry in the United States. Instead, the authors only suggest somenumbers. They point out that, in the 1980s, there were 25,000 marriages between Koreanwomen and U.S. soldiers, at a rate of about 3,500 a year,22 and that a large majority of thesemarriages, upwards of 80 percent, ended up in divorce.23 According to the authors, some(many?) of these women.without jobs, sufficient English language skills, or a supportnetwork in the United States.had “few options but to return to prostitution.”24 This implies,of course, that many of the women were prostitutes in Korea, which is a point that KatherineMoon makes in her well known study, Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.-KoreaRelations. None of the researchers, however, provide any clear-cut numbers. They did,however, give a sense of the process. In this regard, it is useful noting that, in the study byHughes et al., divorced Korean women do not simply fall back into prostitution. Instead, asthe authors argue, traffickers or pimps target them. They explain this way:
Traffickers or pimps often target women who were married or recently divorced from
U.S. servicemen with attractive job offers. Korean women owners or recruiters formassage parlors are familiar with cultural practices and family obligations that couldbe used to pressure women into earning money. For example, the madams look forKorean women who were formerly married to U.S. servicemen and are trying tosurvive economically on three to four part-time jobs. She tells them they can makemore money working part-time in the massage parlor.
There are also cases in which U.S. servicemen are paid, in essence, to serve as smugglers ortraffickers. In these situations, the “husband” is typically paid to engage in a sham marriagewith a Korean woman.25 Sometimes the woman is aware of the arrangements, but sometimesthe woman is deceived or coerced. In cases of deception, women often simply do not knowthat their marriages are phony. The only find out after they arrive in the United States, whenthey are “sold” by their spouses to massage parlors usually through a prearranged deal.26 In cases of coercion, women may be forced into a sham marriage in order to repay a debt. In
21 A similar problem exists for Canada. In two separate stories in the Asian Pacific Post, for example,the Korean government announced two hugely divergent estimates on the number of unauthorized Koreanmigrants in Canada. One earlier estimate put the number at 100,000, while a second estimate put the number atonly 10,000. The two figures did not appear to reflect a typographical error, although a third source indicatedthat, in Vancouver along, there are 60,000 unauthorized Korean immigrants. It would be reasonable to surmise,then, that the higher figure is correct. See “100,000 Illegal Koreans in Canada,” Asian Pacific Post, September9, 2004 and “10,000 Illegal Koreans in Canada,” Asian Pacific Post, November 5, 2005. Available athttp://www.asianpacificpost.com. For the third source, see Bruce Finley, “Indentured Servitude” (part 3 of 3),Denver Post, March 29, 2005.
22 “Modern Day Comfort Women,” p. 10; citing “Rubbing City the Wrong Way: Korean MassageParlors a Growing Problem,” New York Newsday (March 19, 1989).
23 Ibid., citing Katherine H.S. Moon, Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.-Korea Relations(New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).
26 Ibid., citing Unidentified woman, Fox On The Record, 2002
both types of cases, criminal gangs are generally involved.27 Again, though, the authors offerno estimates on the number of Korean women who end up in the American prostitutionindustry through either of these two processes.
The foregoing analysis by Hughes et al. is certainly valuable.particularly since it ispractically the only study available that focuses, albeit only partly, on the trafficking ofKorean women to the United States. Still, the study’s emphasis on marriages as a primarysource of trafficking is potentially misleading. For it is not clear how significant suchmarriages.whether legitimate or sham.continue to be.28 On this point, it is worthwhilenoting that the study by Hughes et al., while published in 2002, uses statistics from the 1980sand early 1990s; although certainly not irrelevant, such statistics are most likely quite dated.Indeed, more recent evidence suggests that marriages between Korean women and Americanservices are not as significant a source of prostitution. If anything, it appears that suchmarriages have, for the most part, been completely replaced by other, more direct recruitmentstrategies. Two separate incidents in 2005 help illustrate this point. In August, federalofficials raided a Dallas-based network of South Korean brothels and arrested dozens of Korean brokers. Among those detained were 42 Korean sex workers. Of the 42 womenarrested in the raid, according to detailed report by Paul Meyers of the Dallas Morning News,some had worked previously in the prostitution industry in Seoul and knew they would workas prostitutes in the United States. Others said they thought they were coming to restaurantsand bars, only to be thrown into “massage parlors” and “bathhouses.”29 Most were in their late 20s and early 30s, but none of them.it is worth emphasizing.came to the United Statesas spouses of American servicemen. Instead, most or all were lured to the United States byInternet sites, newspaper advertisements, and word of mouth. Many of these ads madeextraordinary promises: $5,000 a month to work in Guam, read one advertisement. $7,200monthly to work in a Los Angeles salon, with guaranteed entrance to a “state governmentvocational school,” read another.30
In another major operation conducted in San Francisco.dubbed “Operation GildedCage”.the situation was largely the same. In this case, 104 Korean women were detained byImmigration, Customs and Enforcement (ICE) authorities,31 along with 11 brothel ownersand 27 other suspects.32 Again, none of the women indicated that they had been married to
U.S. servicemen; instead, most were lured into the United States through deceptiveadvertisements or fraud, and at least a handful were physically coerced into working as
28 It is worth noting that U.S. law enforcement, at least until the early 2000s, still considered shammarriages to be a significant method used by Korean women to enter the United States. Sergeant Marcus Frank,the supervisor of the Special Investigations Unit handling intelligence and Asian Organized Crimeinvestigations for the Westminster (California) Police Department, for example, listed sham marriages acommon tactic used to smuggle women into the United States from Vietnam and Korea. “In the case of Korea”,he wrote, “the females attempt to target U.S. military personnel for marriage. In the same manner, once thefemale arrives in the U.S., a “divorce” occurs and the girl moves into the prostitution circuit.” See FrankMarcus, “Asian Criminal Enterprises and Prostitution,” paper presented at the 24th International Asian Organized Crime Conference held in Chicago, Illinois (March 25-30, 2002). Available athttp://usinfo.state.gov/eap/Archive_Index/Asian_Criminal_Enterprises _and_Prostitution.html.
29 Paul Meyer, “Sex Slaves or Capitalists?: Arrest of 42 S. Korean Women in Dallas Brothel RaidsStirs Debate on How Trafficking Laws Used,” Dallas Morning News, May 8, 2006.
30 Cited in ibid.
31 Not all of the women detained were located in the San Francisco area; some were from Los Angeles.Those detained in Los Angeles were technically not part of Operation Gilded Cage, but the raids were carriedout as part of the same larger anti-trafficking operation.
32 Originally, it was reported that 102 prostituted Korean women were detained; a subsequent report,however, listed the figure at 104 detained. See “Deportation Sought in Brothel Probe,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 13, 2005.
prostitutes in the United States.33 The operators allegedly told the women they could work aswaitresses and bar hostesses in America if each paid a fee of $10,000 to $16,000.34 Other women, it is important to add, claimed that they did not know they would be charged a “fee”to enter the United States. The brokers and smugglers told the women that they would “takecare of everything,” and that the women did not need to worry about anything. Only after thewomen arrived in the United States did they learn that they would be required to pay back thecosts of smuggling and transportation. Moreover, many or most of the women were requiredto live in apartments.sometimes four to a room.managed by their new “bosses,” and weremade to pay exorbitant rents of up to $2,000 per person, per month. This was a way tomaintain an ongoing relationship of debt dependence or “debt bondage” (I will return to thisissue below).
Estimating the Magnitude of Smuggled and Trafficked Women
Periodic raids on the network of brothels, bathhouses, and massage parlors that employ orentrap (or entice) Korean women as prostitutes, unfortunately, do not provide a solidfoundation for accurately estimating the magnitude of the problem. It is fairly clear, though,that in West Coast cities, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, the number ofprostituted Korean women.both smuggled and trafficked.number in the hundreds (in eachcity). The fact that Operation Gilded Cage (plus the simultaneous raid in Los Angeles)resulted in the detention of 150 Korean women (approximately 46 in Los Angeles and about104 in San Francisco), gives a clear indication that the number is more than a handful or afew dozen. How much more, though, is extremely difficult to gauge. Basic extrapolationwould tell us that, on a national scale, that there are at least several thousand prostitutedKorean women, and maybe more than 5,000. Consider, on this point, the 2005 Trafficking inPersons Report issued by the United States Department of State,35 which indicted that between 1,500 and 2,200 persons are trafficked through Canada into the United States everyyear (with some estimates much higher). Although not all these victims of trafficking areKorean, the report did note that British Columbia, in particular, had become a major transitpoint “through which a significant number of Korean and other female trafficking victims aretrafficked to the United States.” The report continued:
Additionally, there continues to be anecdotal evidence of large numbers of South
Korean women trafficked through Canada to the United States. The lack of visa
requirements to enter Canada, lack of prosecutions, and an inability to determine the
scope of the problem has made Canada, particularly British Columbia, an attractive
trafficking hub for East Asian traffickers. Airline passenger analysis shows that the
number of Koreans returning to Korea on flights from Vancouver Canada is 25 percent
less than the number arriving on flights from Korea, but the ties to trafficking are
now known. Observers believe that several hundred South Koreans have been
trafficked through Canada to the U.S. since 2000, but they say that this estimate is
modest (emphasis added).37
33 Heather Knight, “Officials Ask if Sex Trade Forced on South Koreans; Women Allegedly Not ToldThey'd be Prostitutes in U.S.,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 3, 2005.
35 U.S. Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report (June 2005). Available athttp://www.state.gov/tip.
36 The State Department report did not provide any estimate of the number of Koreans flying intoVancouver. One report in the Denver Post, however, indicated that as many as 900 Korean citizens a day flyinto Vancouver International Airport on one of three daily flights between Korea and Canada. In “IndenturedServitude” (part 3 of 3).
37 Ibid., p. 80.
The State Department estimate, I should emphasize, is conservative. On this point, it isworth considering a story in the Denver Post, which referred to a U.S. governmentintelligence indicating that, in the mid-2000s, “400 to 500 immigrants a month just fromSouth Korea sneak in from western Canada”, and that “half the Koreans are women bound for indentured servitude at Korean-run massage parlors around the United States” (emphasisadded).38 This estimate, in other words, tells us that between 2,400 and 3,000 Korean womena year are potential victims of sex trafficking. And, it is important to remember, that this isonly from Canada. It is also worth noting that Canada’s transformation into a trafficking andsmuggling hub is not a brand new phenomenon. Even before 2000, Canada had become awell-trodden destination of trafficking and smuggling by Korean nationals. An investigativereport by Chris Wood for Maclean’s magazine, for example, pointed out that, in the late1990s, one open stretch of farmland at the foot of the Sumas Mountain, south of Chilliwack,B.C., had been dubbed “Little Korea” because of a surge of South Koreans using it as alaunching point for illegal entry into the United States.39 In short, sex traffickers andsmugglers have been using Canada as a major transit point for at least a decade, if not longer.
Canada, as I suggested above, is only one possible point of entry into the United States.Indeed, some observers believe that Mexico is a far more important “trafficking hub,”especially since anti-trafficking measures, according to the Trafficking in Persons Report, aremuch weaker in Mexico than in Canada. In addition, trafficking rings in Mexico are“complex and have stronger links to organized transnational criminal networks and gangs…”making it even more difficult to accurately gauge the numbers. The U.S. Department of Stateconcedes as much by stating, “[e]xact numbers of trafficking victims are not readilyavailable, as they are often difficult to identify, due to the clandestine and complex nature ofcross-border trafficking [from Mexico to the United States].”40 There are also individuals who enter the United States directly, although in these cases it is much more difficult todiscern whether they are “victims” or willing “accomplices.” In early 2006, for example, thepolice uncovered a prostitution ring in Los Angeles that allegedly brokered deals betweenKorean women and “red-light establishments” in the United States. In this case, 30 womenpaid for passports, visas, and “all sorts of fabricated documents” in order to enter the UnitedStates illegally for the purpose of prostitution.41
From the foregoing discussion, it is not difficult to conclude that there are at a minimum 5,000 Korean women in the United States who are either victims of sex traffickingor who otherwise trapped or entangled in situations of prostitution such that they are not freeto leave, even if they came to the United States voluntarily. There are likely others who are“willingly” engaged in prostitution.i.e., who knowingly entered the United States to work inthe prostitution industry and who have the capacity to “walk away” from their worksites oftheir own volition. Still, any estimate is unavoidably “soft.” Five thousand may be aconservative estimate, but it may also be an exaggeration (although this is very unlikely).There simply is no way to know for sure. No government agency has been able to develop areliable figure, and no systematic research has been conducted.certainly, such researchwould probably be prohibitively difficult and expensive given the nature of sex traffickingand smuggling. The lack of reliable data on this issue is regrettable, but certainly not fatal.For minimally, we know that the problem is far from trivial. And we also know that theproblem is persistent: the trafficking and smuggling of Korean women to and in the U.S.
38 “Indentured Servitude.”
39 Chris Wood, “Patrolling ‘Little Korea,’” Maclean’s, vol. 112, no. 47 (November 22, 1999).
40 Ibid., p. 156.
41 “Prostitution Ring Uncovered in LA’s Koreatown,” Digital Chosun (online version of the ChosunIlbo), March 27, 2003. Avaliable at http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200603/200603270013.html.
prostitution industry has been going on for several decades at least, and shows no signs ofabating. Indeed, anecdotal evidence suggests that the problem is growing andmetamorphosing. I return to this point below. For now, it would also be useful to take a brieflook at the scope of the issue in the United States (with emphasis on the western UnitedStates).
The Trafficking and Smuggling Network in the United States
It is abundantly clear that the trafficking and smuggling of Korean women in the prostitutionindustry is not limited to major cities on the West Coast (and East Coast), although the largestnumbers of prostitution-based enterprises that use Korean women are located in cities such asLos Angeles, San Francisco, and New York (or in their immediate environs). Spatially,though, it would be a mistake to focus too closely on the major cities as discrete locations ofprostitution and sex trafficking. Instead, it would be better to see the major cities.and alarge number of much smaller cities.as an integral part of a nationwide prostitution and sextrafficking network. The major cities often serve as central destinations in this network, butthey also act as hubs. Of course, the women have little or no capacity to control theirpositions and movement in this network. Instead, the operation of the network is controlledby criminal gangs or by the enterprise owners who move the women from place to place, inpart, to supply “fresh faces” for the men.42 Hughes et al., referring to a discussion with localpolice sergeant in Michigan, describe one network based on a circuit around the Midwest andsoutheast:
They start the women off in Houston and Dallas. Then they take them east along the
southern seaboard. Then they go into Florida, Georgia, from there, to Ohio, Michigan.
We have 3 to 4 towns they are in here: Grand Rapids, Flint, Waterford, and Saginaw.
They move them around in vehicles; they never fly. The women spend one month in
each place, then onto the next. They want fresh faces.43
Prostitution of sex trafficking circuits in the United States, it is worth emphasizing, are notunique to Korean enterprises and gangs. One group of scholars in Florida, for example,described a similar, although much more geographically delimited circuit for trafficked girlsand women from Central America. In this case, the traffickers rotated the women among acircuit of four or five brothels all owned by the same crime family, typically keeping thewomen at a location for about 15 days before moving them again. Significantly, this practicewas not only meant to provide “fresh women” for the johns (mostly migrant farm workers),but was also meant to ensure that that no lasting relationships could be built between thewomen and their “clients.”44 One can also argue that constant rotation from one location toanother.especially from one city to another, still less from one state to another.preventswomen from developing any local knowledge. Constant rotation, in this regard, keeps womenin a highly dependent and vulnerable position. The use of trafficking networks, therefore,serves to disempower women, which further blurs the distinction between smuggling andtrafficking.
As with the other aspects of the smuggling and trafficking process, however, it isunclear how many Korean women are directly involved or, rather, rotated through thesenetworks; if they are rotated, it is not clear how many are moved from state to state. InOperation Gilded Cage, at least some of the 104 detained Korean women were allegedly
42 T. Merriman, Fox on the Record, June 11, 2002. Cited in “Modern Day Comfort Women,” pp. 11-
12. 43 Sergeant Jim Lalone, Waterford Township Policy, Michigan. Quoted in ibid., p. 12.44 Florida Responds, p. 40.
transported between Southern and Northern California, and from California to Texas andColorado to work as prostitutes.45 Indeed, immediately after the ICE sweep in Los Angelesand San Francisco, brokers shuttled dozens of Korean women to Denver to keep them frombeing detained and questioned by federal authorities.46 In the anti-trafficking sweep in Dallas,Texas, brokers working through a travel agency in San Francisco, arranged for airline ticketsfor women to travel to and from Oakland (California) to Las Vegas, Dallas, New York andBoston. Unlike the situation Midwest/southeast circuit describe above, then, the women didfly to different locations, although, according to news accounts, special taxi services werealso used within cities to ferry women from one location to another47 (in Operation GildedCage, many women were transported by “taxi” from Los Angeles to San Francisco). These“taxi” services, it should be noted, are obviously not real taxis; instead, the drivers are oftengang members who act as liaisons between the brokers and the owners of prostitution-basedenterprises.48 In another anti-trafficking operation in 2002, the FBI discovered a connectionbetween a suspected brothel owner in Sunnyvale, California (in the San Francisco Bay Area)and several “hostess” bars in Tennessee.49 Nine to twelve women were detained as possiblevictims of sex trafficking in this case, although there is no information available on whetherthey had been transported between Sunnyvale and Tennessee.50
These and other cases indicate that sex trafficking and smuggling involving Koreanwomen in the United States is geographically widespread. While large cities remain thecenters of activity, prostitution-based enterprises relying solely or primarily on Koreanwomen can be found “all over the map,” including in some very unlikely spots. Thisincludes, as we saw above, Saginaw, Michigan (a city of 62,000 people surrounded byfarmland). Boise, Idaho (a much larger but almost all white city) is another unexpected spot.51 This geographic dispersion, as Derek Ellerman points out, has a very simple reason: it allowsthe owners of prostitution-based enterprises to more easily avoid law enforcement.“Traffickers have done a good job of extending their operations into suburban and ruralareas”, Ellerman stated in an interview, “because law enforcement tends to be less organizedthere.”52 In the case of Boise, it may also have something to do with major smuggling routesfrom Canada. Idaho, along with Washington state, have become major points of entry fromCanada.
45 “24 Indicted in Korean Human Smuggling Scheme that Brought Prostitutes into the United States,”News Release, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (July 14, 2005). Available athttp://www.ice.gov/graphics/ news/newsreleases/articles/050714losangeles.html.
46 Amy Herdy, “The Price of Freedom: A Police Crackdown on Prostitution Reveals Women Held atAsian Massage Parlors Until They Repay Debts for Being Smuggled into the US,” Asiansexgazette (October 27,2005). Available at http://asiansexgazette.com/asg/korea/korea02news65.htm. The same article notes, however,that many of these women were subsequently caught up in another ICE sweep in Denver.
47 Paul Meyer, “Asian Spa Arrests Fuel Debate on Human Trafficking,” Dallas Morning News (May 7,2006).
48 “The Price of Freedom.”
49 Ji Hyun Lim, “FBI Bust Korean American Sex Trafficking Ring,” AsianWeek.com (August 9-August15, 2002). Available at http://www.asianweek.com/2002_08_09/baby_sextrafficking.html.
50 In this case, there was strong evidence that women were, in fact, being trafficked. The owners of themassage parlors in Sunnyvale, according to Derek Ellerman, had hired a police officer to protect their operationand even to track down women who had run away. In one incidence, he went as far as Hawaii to get them. Citedin Kristen Lombardi, “Slave Labor: Trafficking in Women and Children,” The Phoenix.com (June 4, 2006).Available at http://www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/news_features/this_just_in/documents/02537755.htm.
51 This was pointed out to me by Jack Large, who was made aware of the relatively large presence ofKorean women in massage parlors through several firsthand reports. It is not clear, however, if the Koreanwomen were victims of trafficking or willing prostitutes. Personal e-mail correspondence (May 7, 2006).
52 Quoted in “Slave Labor.”
The Trafficking and Smuggling Process
Major Routes and Trafficking Strategies
The foregoing discussion has already provided some important information on the traffickingand smuggling process. We know, for example, that there are several major routes into theUnited States: most Korean women arrive by air in either Canada or Mexico and then travelby foot and car into the United States, while a smaller number fly directly from Korea to theUnited States. Indirect routes through Canada and Mexico are much more commonly usedbecause both countries maintain a visa waiver or exemption program with South Korea. Thatis, Korean citizens can travel to either country with only a valid passport (there are a fewother requirements.such as a return or onward ticket.but these can be easily fulfilled). InCanada, the legislation allowing Korean citizens to enter the country without a visa waspassed in 1994. The ease of flying into Canada has made it a very popular destination. As Inoted earlier, upwards of 900 Koreans a day arrive at Vancouver International Airport, wherethey can easily blend in with the large number of Asian tourists, including legitimate travelersfrom South Korea. Indeed, smugglers count on the relatively anonymity that the largepresence of Asians provides: when the women arrive at the airport, they are usually “mixedin with legitimate tour groups and families” and told to separate in order to avoid raisingsuspicions.53 It is estimated that 90 percent of the people aiming to illegally cross into theUnited States from Canada arrive by air.54 Once the women have been successful transferred across the border (whether from Canada or from Mexico), many of them are driven to SanFrancisco or Los Angeles because of their large Asian communities,55 and also because those cities are where major criminal organizations involved in the trafficking and smuggling ofKorean women are based. This is particularly true on the West Coast.
Operation Gilded Cage, cited above, provides strong evidence of the importance oforganized criminal gangs in directing sex trafficking and smuggling rings in the western partof the United States. In Operation Gilded Cage (which technically was focused only on SanFranciso), two major.but largely independent.trafficking operations were identified. Onewas run by the “Jung organization,” which was based in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. The Jungorganization, according to U.S. Attorney Debra Wong Yang, was a “top to bottom” criminalenterprise, which not only smuggled Korean women into the United States, but also turnedthem over to an underground network of Korean “taxi” services that assigned and transportedthem each day to various brothels in Los Angeles and surrounding areas (occasionally, thewomen were also transported to other states).56 The taxi services, as I noted above, were runby members and associates of the Jung organization. Authorities said the brothels operatedunder the guise of being massage parlors, chiropractic clinics and businesses offeringaromatherapy, acupressure, acupuncture and the like. The use of massage parlors, of course,is nothing new, but the use of chiropractic clinics was an interesting development inproviding legitimate fronts for prostitution activity. In these cases, the brothel owners paidchiropractors $600 to $1,500 a month to use their licenses. In San Francisco, a similar, buteven more “sophisticated criminal enterprise” was identified. The federal indictment allegedthat the organization, headed by Young Joon Yang, operated a “taxi” service and travelagency dedicated to transporting Korean women to and from brothels throughout San
53 “Indentured Servitude” (part 3 of 3).
54 “17 Caught at U.S. Border.”
55 “The Price of Freedom.”
56 David Rosenzweig and Connie Kang, “Raids on Brothel Rings Net 45 Arrests.” Los Angeles Times(July 2, 2005).
Francisco as well as to other prostitution “engagements” in Las Vegas and other cities.57 Altogether, more than two dozen men and women were indicted on charges of conspiring tobring in and harbor aliens, sex trafficking, money laundering conspiracy, and transportingwomen in interstate commerce to engage in prostitution (a similar number of suspects werearrested in Los Angeles).58
While San Francisco and Los Angeles have served as important trafficking andsmuggling hubs, it is important to point out that, from a geographic perspective, almost anyarea of the United States (or border hugging cities/towns in Canada or Mexico) can serve thisrole. In 2001, for example, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) uncovered amultimillion-dollar prostitution ring centered in Ontario, Canada that smuggled as many as280 Korean women into the United States over a 4-month period. The women weretransported across the border into Michigan in vans or in boats over the St. Clair River nearSarnia (2001 population: 70,876), and then sent to various cities in the United States,including Los Angeles and New York. This operation, too, was run by an organized criminal“cartel” and was headed by Kyeong Hwan Min, a resident of Toronto. According to reports,the organization had been operating since the early 1990s, and may have smuggled as manyas 1,200 Korean and Chinese citizens into the United States in 2000 alone.59 The successful prosecution of this trafficking/smuggling ring, however, did little to dissuade other smugglersand traffickers. Indeed, more recently, as law enforcement has focused more its anti-smuggling efforts on the border between Canada and Washington state, Korean smugglershave moved their operation eastwards to such places as Porthill, Idaho. As one Canadianborder agent put it, “Most of the traffic … has been over in the eastern Washington side, sowe do see that it’s somewhat adjusting. If it’s not working in a certain area, they [thesmugglers] don’t quit. They adjust.”60
Before being smuggled or trafficked into the United States for prostitution, women must firstbe recruited. I have already touched on this several times, but given its importance to thetrafficking process, it would be useful to say a little more on this subject. It seems apparentthat marriages between Korean women and American servicemen are no longer a major.oreven minor.source of recruitment. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that it is little morethan a residual part of the recruitment process. Instead, the recruitment of Korean women forprostitution in the United States now appears to depend heavily on Internet and printadvertising as well as word of mouth. Some of this advertising is basically forthright aboutthe type of positions available. One advertisement on the cafedaum.net website read, “We know that in Korea these days, unemployment, the recession and the Special Law onProstitution make it hard to earn even half of what you made before. Try a new W8-10million a month (US$8,000-$10,000) in a bar, W18-24 million (US$18,000-$24,000) a monthin a massage parlor guaranteed. Advances possible. We take care of visas and bad credit.”61
Of course, while this particular ad is fairly clear about the nature of the job.i.e., work in“massage parlor” along with reference to the Special Law on Prostitution.it is difficult tobelieve that annual earnings of $216,000 to $288,000 are possible. (In addition, the ad clearly
57 According to one source who worked with some of the detained Korean women, the “taxi service”also shuttled the women between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Anonymous interview, June 2006 (LosAngeles).
59 Susan McClelland, “Inside the Sex Trade,” Maclean’s, vol. 114, no. 49 (December 3, 2001).
60 Tarina White, “17 Koreans Caught at U.S. Border: Human Traffickers Hit Alberta, B.C.,” The Calgary Herald (April 7, 2005).
61 Quoted in Exodus of Sex Trade Workers to Canada.”
suggests that the much lower paid work in a bar does not entail the same requirements.i.e.,prostitution.as work in a massage parlor.) Whether the Korean women.most of whom lackeven a high school diploma.who respond to these advertisements are aware of this“deception” is open to question. It is clear, though, that they understand or should understandthat advertised position is for the purpose of prostitution.
Other advertisements are much less clear. Many advertisements, for example, make nomention of “massage parlors” or other establishments that could be considered code wordsfor brothels. Instead, they might mention work in bars, clubs, or restaurants; or they may notmention any type particular establishment at all. One Korean woman, referred to as“Hannah,” who was detained during the August 2005 raid of eight “spas” in Dallas, forexample, responded to an Internet advertisement that told her she could earn $10,000 a monthworking in a club. She said that there was no mention of prostitution.62 Thus, when shearrived in Dallas and found out that she was supposed to work as a prostitute, she wasshocked. As she put, “I couldn’t work because I cried so hard.” And, after the first time shehad sex for money, she “cried for over month.”63 Newspaper reports on raids in SanFrancisco, Los Angeles, and Denver suggest very similar situations: women who respondedto Internet or newspaper ads, or who were talked into meeting brokers by their friends oracquaintances, unknowingly accepted work as prostitutes in the United States. For many oftheses women as well, they felt trapped once they arrived. Many did not speak any Englishand some even lacked the basic knowledge to make a long-distance phone call back toKorea.64 Their fear and isolation kept many from trying to escape and, for those that did, theysoon realized that they had nowhere to go. In Hannah’s case, she once escaped to California,but quickly realized that she no one to go to and no way to return to Korea, so she returned toDallas. The brothel owner beat her for a month.65
Debts and Debt Bondage: Blurring the Line between Smuggling and Trafficking
The naivete of women who are fooled by outlandish promises in Internet or newspaper adsmay be hard to swallow, and more in-depth examination may prove that a little skepticism is,in fact, a good thing. Still, it is quite conceivable that many women are genuinely deceived bysuch ads66: as I noted earlier, most of the Korean women who respond to these advertisementshave limited education: junior high school and some high school. At the same time, it isimportant to understand that these advertisements appear to bank on women who are indesperate or hard pressed financial situations. Indeed, in South Korea, many women firstbecome involved in prostitution as a way to pay off credit card debt or personal loans(provided by loan sharks).67 Moreover, as Hughes et al. explain it, “[o]nce Korean women arein prostitution, they quickly accumulate more debt. Pimps manipulate the women intoincurring debts, so that they will not be able to leave. Women are charged for rent, food,furniture, clothes, and medical expenses; so often, the longer the woman is in prostitution, the
62 Paul Meyer, “Back Home in Seoul, Hannah Looks for Work, Keeps a Secret,” Dallas Morning News(May 6, 2006).
63 Quoted in ibid.
64 Interview with Ann Y. Park.
65 “Back Home in Seoul.”
66 In a comprehensive study of sex trafficking in the U.S., Raymond and Hughes found that a majority(67 percent) of law enforcement officials that interviewed believed that women did not enter prostitutionvoluntarily. One law enforcement official thought that 80 percent of the women he dealt with were “duped” intothinking that they were coming the U.S. for legitimate work. See Janice G. Raymond and Donna M. Hughes,Sex Trafficking of Women in the United States: International and Domestic Trends (March 2001), p. 91.Available at http://action.web.ca/home/catw/attach/sex_traff_us.pdf.
67 “Modern Day Comfort Women,” p. 5.
larger is her debt.”68 The dynamics of the situation in the United States may be slightlydifferent.i.e., it appears that many women are able to pay off their debts, including whatthey owe for the cost of the smuggling itself, in a few years69.but the starting point is oftenthe same. In his report on the Dallas raid, Meyers points out that, among the handful ofwomen he was able to interview, at least a couple had large debts in Korea. One came towork off high-interest debt incurred while unemployed, while another came after borrowingmoney to become a hair designer. “She feared”, according to Meyers, “what the loan sharksmight do to her family if she didn’t repay the loan.”70 Although this evidence is purelyanecdotal, it points to a potentially important factor in helping to account for the continuinghigh level of Korean women who are smuggled or trafficked into the United States to work asprostitutes.
More generally, the question of “debt bondage” is one of the most relevant and salientaspects of the smuggling and trafficking process regarding Korean women. As previousdiscussion has made abundantly clear, essentially all Korean women who are smuggled ortrafficked to the United States to work in the prostitution industry will incur a large debtranging from a minimum of $10,000 to a high of $30,000. This is sometimes “hidden” fromthe women, but is just as often made clear. At first, the debt is based on the “cost” ofsmuggling, which obviously includes a large profit margin for brokers and smugglers. Thesedebts are then transferred to the owner of the prostitution-based enterprise, who often willhold the passports and other documents of their “employees” until the debt is fully paid. But,as in Korea, the owners of prostitution-based enterprises often have a vested interest in seeingthe debts of the women grow. Thus, the women will often be charged for rent (a point I madeearlier), for daily expenses for travel and living, referred to as papkap or rice money, 71 and even for condoms and lubricants.72 The prevalence.even universality.of this practice isprobably the one factor that most blurs the line between smuggling and trafficking. This isbecause, for a meaningful period of time (say, two or three years and perhaps much longer),the Korean women who are smuggled into the United States.even those with fullknowledge that they would engage in prostitution.are generally not free to leave, nor is iteven clear that they exercise much control over the conditions of their work, such as beingmoved via “taxi” from one location to another. On the surface, this would appear to meet thebasic criterion of “severe trafficking” as defined by the TVPA, although, in practice, most, ifnot almost all, of the women who voluntarily come to the United States to work as prostitutesare not classified as victims of trafficking.
Smuggling, Sex Trafficking and the Role of Organized Criminal Groups
Given the organizational and logistical capability needed for coordinated multinationalsmuggling operations.as well as intra-city, inter-city and state-to-state transport within theUnited States.it is reasonable to assume that a fairly strong level of organized criminal
69 I should emphasize that I do not have clear-cut empirical support for this claim. Further research isnecessary to determine what percentage of Korean women are able to pay off their debts and how long thisusually takes. Anecdotal evidence, however, indicates that it has been possible for Korean women in the UnitedStates to pay off their smuggling debt and other expenses. On the other hand, one Assistant U.S. Attorney, Ye-Ting Woo, speaking about the trafficking of Korean women generally said, “Even after they pay off theirsmuggling debt, it’s like they apply an interest to the debt so it almost makes it impossible for you to pay it off.That is one way they hold or enslave women.” Quoted in Salim, Jiwa, “S. Korean Sex Slaves in U.S. come fromCanada: Bonded Women Work in L.A. Brothels,” The Gazette (Montreal) (April 11, 2005).
70 “Sex Slaves or Capitalists.”
71 “Modern Day Comfort Women,” p. 12.
72 Tim Wyatt, “Irving Woman Pleads Guilty to Harboring Illegal Immigrants: South Koreans Workedas Indentured Prostitutes in Massage Parlors,” Dallas Morning News (March 3, 2006)
activity is a common characteristic of the Korean prostitution industry in the United States.Even more, given the money and risk involved, it is fair to assume that the operators of theseorganized criminal gangs, organizations or groups exercise a high degree of power over andcontrol of the women who work in their prostitution-based enterprises. They control theconditions in which the women work, how much they receive as earnings, how much they arecharged for living and travel expenses, where they live, where they travel, and so on. Mostimportantly, perhaps, these gangs or criminal organizations are able to determine when and ifa woman’s debt will be paid off.that is, when and if a woman will be allowed to leave.When a woman has accumulated almost enough to pay of her debt, for instance, “someonebreaks into the massage parlor and steals their money.”73 The women then have to start from scratch. It is not clear how often these “fortuitous” break-ins happen, but the main point isthis: the gangs and owners of prostitution-based enterprises have almost unchecked power tomanipulate and control such events. If they do not want a woman to pay off her debt, theycan ensure that something will happen.
Prostitution-based gangs and criminal organizations, of course, can rely on much crudermethods as well: intimidation, threats, and outright violence. In this regard, it is worth notingthat the “size or structure of the criminal group … has no bearing on the violence,intimidation, and brutality that is commonly perpetrated on the trafficking [or smuggling]victim, as many small trafficking rings are extremely vicious.”74 In the raids carried out in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Denver there was no evidence of brutal or severeviolence exercised against the women, but there was evidence of systematic intimidation andphysical and sexual abuse. More generally, though, it is impossible to say what level ofviolence, fear, and intimidation most Korean women in the U.S. prostitution industry face.Further study and analysis is clearly necessary.
None of the major raids in 2005~2006, I should point out, uncovered the participationof major organized street gangs, for which the use of severe violence, including rape,kidnapping, and homicide, might be expected. Indeed, there is essentially no mention ofKorean street gangs in any of the major anti-trafficking raids conducted over the past severalyears. This does not mean that Korean street gangs are not involved in the trafficking andsmuggling process in the United States. A report by Brendan McGarvey indicated that thereare several powerful Korean-American “mobs” in the United States.the Korean FukChing,75 the Green Dragons, the Korean Killers, and the Korean Power.that operate in NewYork, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, SanFrancisco, Portland and in cities in Canada. These gangs, which purportedly have ties to theJapanese Yakuza, Chinese Triads and crime syndicates in South Korea, are involved inextortion, home invasions, gambling, drug trafficking and, not surprisingly, prostitution.
According to McGarvey, Korean-American gangs play an important and particularlyvicious role in prostitution parlors and sex trafficking in major cities76.or at least used to. A 1995 story in USA Today describes the plight of Mu Yung Shin (a fictitious name), who was
73 Sergeant Tim Cox, Vice Division, Houston Police Department (September 12, 2002). Quote in“Modern Day Comfort Women,” p. 13.
74 Amy O’Neill Richard, “International Trafficking in Women to the United States: A ContemporaryManifestation of Slavery and Organized Crime,” DCI (Director of Central Intelligence) ExceptionalIntelligence Analyst Program: An Intelligence Monograph (November 1999). Available atwww.cia.gov/csi/monograph/ women/trafficking.pdf
75 The Fuk Ching is a Chinese gang believed to be involved in smuggling and human trafficking. Thenature of the relationship between the Korean Fuk Ching and the original Fuk Ching is not clear. The ChineseFuk Ching is briefly mentioned in “International Trafficking in Women to the United States.”
76 Brendan McGarvey, “Silent Threat: Korean Americans Don’t Talk Much about the Gangsters inTheir Midst,” Philadelphia CityPaper.net (August 22-25, 2002). Available at http://citypaper.net/articles/2002-08-22/cb2.shtml.
working as a prostitute in a massage parlor in Dallas at the time. She was reportedly abductedat the age of 14 from her village home in South Korea by a gang of Korean criminals, whorepeatedly raped her then sent her to one of the infamous “sex farms” used by the SouthKorean army. After this brutalizing experience, she was smuggled to the United States in1991 through a sex trafficking operation run by the Korean Killers, or KK. The KK told Muthat she would be killed if she ever talked about her experiences. To smuggle her into theU.S., Mu was “married” to an American soldier and moved to Fort Bragg, N.C. She was thensent to Chicago, Houston, Larchmont (NY), New York City, and finally, to Dallas. Mu wasreportedly just one of several thousand Korean women abducted, raped, and virtuallyenslaved by the multimillion-dollar international prostitution network run by the KoreanKillers (and, perhaps, other gangs).77 Other reports indicate that Korean-American gangswere active in sex trafficking and prostitution in the 1980s and early 1990s,78 but there have been few reports since then. It is possible that the gangs no longer play as prominent a role,but they have not disappeared. 79 It may also be that they have turned their attention todifferent activities, such as drug trafficking and “protection” schemes. In any case, withoutfurther evidence it is not possible to accurately assess what role, if any, Korean street gangscurrently play in the sex trafficking and smuggling process.
Whatever the current role of Korean street gangs, it is fairly clear that the sextrafficking and smuggling process involving Korean women in the United States isfundamentally based on unequal and exploitative relations of power. Thus, whether Koreanwomen voluntarily and knowingly come to the United States to engage in prostitution, orwhether they are duped or coerced into the prostitution industry, they have limited controlover the process and even over their own lives once they leave Korea (and, most likely, evenbefore they leave). For this reason, the legal distinction between trafficking and smuggling, inpractice, is difficult to maintain. Yet, it is evident that many women will refuse help from lawenforcement or service providers even when it is offered. In the San Francisco, Los Angeles,Dallas, and Denver raids, for example, many Korean women asked to be returned to Koreaimmediately. Does this mean that they prefer prostitution to “legitimate” employment? Ordoes it mean that they are scared of retaliation, or simply distrustful of law enforcementauthorities or other outsiders? Or does it mean that they simply have no other options? Toanswer these questions requires a basic discussion of the causes of sex trafficking andsmuggling.
Causes of Sex Trafficking and Smuggling: Summary and Preliminary Analysis
There are several ways to discuss the causes of trafficking. The most common.and one thatI have addressed several times in this paper.is to focus on the desperate economicconditions that create large pools of potential prostitutes in poor countries. Raymond andHughes explain it this way: “Trafficking is precipitated by economic conditions in sendingcountries. Depressed, stagnant and collapsed economies, high rates of unemployment,women being driven from jobs once held, as in Russia, and desperation to find a livingsomewhere push women to leave their countries and make them vulnerable to the recruitersand trafficker.”80 As I pointed out in the introduction, however, South Korea does not clearlyfit this mold. Indeed, South Korea is a relatively prosperous country with consistently lowlevels of unemployment (except for a brief period following the Asian Financial Crisis,
77 Mike Gallagher, “Prostitution Ring Traps S. Koreans,” USA Today (April 7, 1995).
78 See, for example, “Asian Organized Crime Groups.State of New Jersey Commission Investigation1989 Report: Koreans.” Available at http://www.mafianj.com/asian/koreans.shtml.
79 A May 21, 2001 story in the Daily News (New York), for example, mentioned the Korean Powergang in connection with a “savage gang attack.” See “4 Busted in Queens in Savage Gang Attack.”
80 Sex Trafficking of Women in the United States, p. 90.
which affected the country in the late 1990s). Clearly, then, broad economic conditionscannot provide an adequate explanation for the relatively high level and persistence of sextrafficking and smuggling from Korea. Still, this does not mean that economic factors areunimportant. We saw above, for example, that high personal debt has led at least someKorean women to knowingly or unknowingly enter the sex trafficking and smugglingprocess. Moreover, there is some evidence (although no clear-cut statistics) that thecrackdown on prostitution in South Korea beginning in 2004 (through the Sex TradePrevention Act) has led to an “exodus of sex trade workers” from Korea to the United States,Canada, and other countries.81 The crackdown, Sealing Cheng argues, is effectivelyeliminating their livelihoods, thus making it extremely difficult for them to remain in SouthKorea.82 As I noted earlier, however, even if the change in South Korea’s law onprostitution.from one of tolerance to one of “zero tolerance”83.is responsible for a recentsurge of Korean women moving to the U.S. prostitution industry, this cannot explain therelatively high proportion of Korean women who moved (or who were moved) to the UnitedStates prior to 2004.
In this regard, it would be useful to look for persistent factors. One possibility is therelationship between education and economic opportunity. Earlier, I noted that a number ofKorean women who become part of the sex trafficking and smuggling process lack a highschool education. Although I do not have hard data on the general educational level ofKorean women in the prostitution industry (either domestically or in the United States), it isworth noting that the overall drop out rate in South Korea is very low: in 2003, there were13,276 middle school and 27,630 high school dropouts in the entire country (the respectivedrop out rates were 0.7 and 1.6 percent respectively). The dropout rate for middle school hasremained fairly consistent for 20 years, while the high school dropout rate declined from 3.3percent in 1985.84 Given the relatively low drop out rate in Korea, it is reasonable to surmisethat students without a high school, still less junior high school, diploma have extremelylimited options. In fact, according to Kim Sang-su, a counselor at the Korea YouthCounseling Institute, this is largely the case. As Kim explains it, dropouts do not have muchof a choice as to what they can do; they are limited to working at gas stations orentertainment establishments, or just hanging out with their friends. Even acquiringvocational skills cannot easily be accomplished for most dropouts. For example, industrialtraining centers, where teenagers can learn technical skills, do not accept dropouts readily.“There is no room for teenagers when they have to compete with college students and adultapplicants. Because the centers have to attain actual results to sustain themselves, they arereluctant to select dropout teenagers,” explains Kim.85 In this context, it is not difficult toimagine that many female dropouts turn to prostitution.86
Another persistent factor is the U.S.-South Korean relationship. I have alreadydiscussed the role of military relations between the two countries, which almost certainly wasa significant factor during the 1980s and into the 1990s. But another, perhaps more important,aspect of this relationship has been the establishment of both concentrated and dispersedethnic Korean communities in the United States. A common characteristic of sex trafficking
81 “Exodus of Sex Workers to Canada.”
82 Sealing Cheng, “Korean Sex Trade ‘Victims.’
84 Statistics from Ministry of Education & Human Resources Development, Brief Statistics on Korean Education 2004 (Seoul: Korean Educational Development Institute, 2004), p. 34. Available athttp://english.moe.go.kr/html/statistics/2004_statistics.pdf.
85 Quoted in Jang Yun-jeong, “Teenagers Walking Different Roads,” The Yonsei Annals (June 1, 2006).Available at http://annals.yonsei.ac.kr/.
86 Estimates on the total number of Korean women engaged in prostitution within South Korea rangefrom 300,000 to about 1 million.
and smuggling rings is the involvement of co-ethnics or co-nationals. For example, Russianwomen tend to be trafficked or smuggled by Russian individuals and criminal groups,Chinese women by Chinese, Mexican women by Mexicans, and so on.87 The same patternholds for Korea. In all the major and minor raids conducted by ICE or the FBI, theringleaders were always ethnic Koreans, although occasionally a non-Korean participant wasinvolved. The close ethnic association between perpetrators and the women who aretrafficked or smuggled is easily understandable. Communication, for instance, is far easierwhen there is a common language as is developing a working relationship between thetraffickers and their associates in the sending country (often the perpetrators are naturalized
U.S. citizens with close ties to their country of origin).88 The involvement of co-ethnics in sex trafficking and smuggling, however, cannot be properly identified as a cause; rather, it is afacilitating factor. In other words, it allows more for a more efficient and smoother operation,but it is not the reason that sex trafficking and smuggling takes place in the first place. In thisrespect, perhaps the most obvious direct cause is demand.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, for instance, according to Chung Bong-hyup (assistantminister in the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family), it was a huge increase in demandthat sparked kidnappings of Korean teenagers and women for the domestic prostitutionindustry.89 Persistent demand, it is easy to conclude, also accounts for sex trafficking andsmuggling to the United States. After all, as the Trafficking in Person Report states, it is“[m]arket demand.especially from male sex buyers.[that] creates a strong profit incentivefor traffickers to entrap more victims, fueling the growth of trafficking in persons.”90 From this perspective, one might simply argue that, if there were no demand, there would be notrafficking. The issue of demand, however, should not be over simplified. Indeed, it is likelyone of the most complex and difficult-to-resolve parts of the sex trafficking and smugglingprocess. It is hard to imagine, for example, how “market demand” can be eliminated or evensignificantly reduced, at least in the foreseeable future (although there is certainly debate onthis point). Moreover, one can argue that it is not demand per se that is the problem, but theimbalance between demand and supply. Thus, if prostitution were legalized, supply wouldincrease and the most pernicious, most exploitative aspects of the sex industry.bothdomestic and international.would be eliminated. This is most likely a naive view as well.For a resolution to human trafficking, broadly conceived, is not just a matter of creatingequilibrium between supply and demand. If it were, we should expect to see a reduction insex trafficking where prostitution, or sex work, is legal.as in the Netherlands. Instead, from1990 to 1995, according to the IOM, the number of women trafficked from Central andEastern Europe tripled.91 One reason for this, according to Donna Hughes, is simply becausenot enough EU women can be recruited.92
The issues here are complicated and extremely divisive93 and I do not pretend to have
87 For example, see International Trafficking in Women to the United States and “Hidden Slaves.”
88 “Hidden Slaves,” p. 59.
89 Quoted in Paul Meyer, “Hoping to Craft a Fresh Start: S. Korean Laws Offer Prostitutes JobRetraining, Counseling,” Dallas Morning News (May 6, 2006).
90 Trafficking in Persons Report, p. 8.
91 International Office for Migration (IOM), “Trafficking of Women to the European Union:Characteristics, Trends and Policy Issues,” European Conference on Trafficking in Women (June 1996). Forfurther discussion of Netherlands, see Donna M. Hughes, “The Demand: The Driving Force of SexTrafficking.” Available at www.icasa.org/uploads/demand_trafficking.doc.
92 “The Demand.”
93 Hughes, a strong opponent of legalization, sums up the divisions this way: “The anti-traffickingmovement is becoming increasingly polarized. The debate is over demand.will the demand be legitimized andaccommodated or will the demand be confronted and stopped. Those are the points of contention, and wherepolicy decisions must be made. And the decisions on what to do about the demand will determine the success in
an answer. Nor do I wish, at this point, to take sides on the pro-legalization and anti-legalization debate. Instead, let me conclude this section with brief summary of the “causes”of sex trafficking and smuggling specifically in relation to Korea. On the pull (demand) side,there is little that distinguishes Korea from any other country, except for the presence of alarge immigrant population in the United States with communities.both very large and verysmall.interspersed throughout the country (and in Canada). The presence of thecommunities is perhaps one factor that has facilitated the trafficking and smuggling ofKorean women into the United States. In the past, too, the U.S.-Korea military relationshipalmost certainly was a major facilitating factor. On the push side, however, South Korea isdistinguished from other major sources of trafficking and smuggling in virtue of large anddynamic economy. Yet, despite the country’s overall prosperity, it seems apparent thatmany.perhaps a large majority.of Korean women who become involved in the sextrafficking and smuggling process do so out of economic or financial duress, whether becausethey have accumulated large personal debts or because they cannot find adequateemployment (or a combination of the two) in Korea. It is also likely that their choices areseverely circumscribed by a lack of education and vocational training. There are alsoindications that the new anti-prostitution stance by the government has significantly increasedthe “supply” of Korean women willing to move to the United States voluntarily.
Much more research in needed on the trafficking and smuggling of women from South Koreato the United States. The analysis here is based almost solely on secondary sources, newsaccounts, government reports, and the like. Except for one article, moreover, there are nostudies specifically focused on the trafficking and smuggling of Korean women, and, as wehave seen, that report is already somewhat dated (although it was written in 2002).Specifically, it is clear that more data are required on the interests, background, knowledgeand motivations of Korean women who knowingly or unwittingly become involved in sextrafficking and smuggling. Such data would include: level of education, personal financialcircumstances, prior experience in prostitution, reasons for entering the United States, and soon. It is also important to understand the nature of their experiences in the UnitedStates.e.g., how they were paid, how large their smuggling and other “fees” were, whetherthey were free to leave their “worksite,” how frequently they were moved from site to site orstate to state, and whether they were physically or sexual abused. The larger research projectof which this paper is a part, of course, is designed to answer these and other questions.
One potential problem, however, is how to obtain this data. The preferred method isdirect interviews with and surveys of Korean women who have been trafficked or smuggledinto the United States and who have worked or are currently working in prostitution-basedenterprises. This is easier said than done. There are several reasons for this. First, it would beextraordinarily difficult to contact Korean women who are currently working as prostitutes,and it is unlikely many would be willing to complete an extensive survey and interview.Second, while there have been numerous raids conducted by federal authorities that havedetained hundreds of Korean women, the large majority of women have already returned orhave been deported to Korea. While it is possible to interview these women in Korea, it willbe difficult to ascertain their names and contact information. Third, of the Korean womenwho have remained in the United States, many will be reluctant to discuss their experiences;even more, contacting these women will require access through a service provider. Many
countering the trafficking of women. Whether to legitimize or stop the demand are two different choices. Theyare not reconcilable end points. I’m not sure if people understand this, but there is no common ground betweenthem. Either the demand is accepted, normalized, even legalized, or it is rejected, confronted, and stopped. Thelives of millions of women and children around the world depend on the choice we make.” Ibid.
service providers, however, are reluctant to provide such assistance.94 Even with full access,there would be a serious methodological problem, namely, sample bias. This is because, ofthe small number of women who remain in the United States, all will have undergone arigorous screening by immigration and law enforcement authorities meant to prove that theyare genuine “victims of severe forms of trafficking.” In other words, interviewing only thoseKorean women who become eligible for a T visa will present skewed and biased results.Despite these serious obstacles, every effort should be made to conduct direct interviews and surveys.
An alternative method is interviews with service providers and law enforcementofficials. This may also include review of case files and court documents. This approach alsohas pitfalls and access problems. Law enforcement agencies, for example, may be unwillingor unable to provide comprehensive information, particularly on individual cases. The samemay be true of service providers and other groups in the anti-trafficking community. Inaddition, within the anti-trafficking community there is a serious division between pro-legalization and anti-legalization groups.95 It is possible, therefore, that different groups willonly be willing to release information that tends to support their position, or that they wouldbe unwilling to cooperate at all if they perceived the researchers’ purpose did not match theirposition. (I have found no evidence of this; still, it is something about which all academicresearchers should be aware.)
The obstacles and problems, however, are not insurmountable. Indeed, even withoutcomprehensive surveys and access, it is possible to develop useful insights about thetrafficking and smuggling of Korean women. This paper, while still quite preliminary, I hopeprovides a useful starting point.
94 This was a problem confronted by the authors of “Hidden Slaves.” As the authors explain it, “Inconducting the cases studies, researchers often encountered difficulties gaining access to survivors. Someservice providers and advocates were unwilling to convey our request for participation in the study to theirclients, citing to protect them from contact with individuals who were not directly involved in their cases,” pp.53-4.
95 Interview with Sandra Hunnicutt, Director, Captive Daughters (June 22, 2006 in Los Angeles).
Table 1. Estimated Unauthorized Resident Population and Per Capita PPP, Top 15Countries: 1990 and 2000 (Numbers in thousands; parts might not add to totals because ofrounding)
Estimated Percent of Total
Country of Origin All countries Population 2000(1) 1990(2) 7,000 3,500 Growth,1990-2000 (3)=(1)-(2) 3,500 Population 2000 (4) 1990(5) 100.0% 100.0% Per CapitaPPP (2003) a
Mexico 4,808 2,040 2,768 68.7% 58.3% $10,000
El Salvador 189 298 -109 2.7% 8.5% $4,700
Guatemala 144 118 26 2.1% 3.4% $4,700
Colombia 141 51 91 2.0% 1.4% $7,900
Hondurasb 138 42 96 2.0% 1.2% $1,700
China 115 70 45 1.6% 2.0% $6,800
Ecuador Dominican RepublicPhilippinesBrazil 108 91 85 77 37 46 70 20 71 45 14 58 1.5% 1.3% 1.2% 1.1% 1.0% 1.3% 2.0% 0.6% $4,300 $7,000 $5,100 $8,400
Haiti 76 67 8 1.1% 1.9% $1,700
India 70 28 41 1.0% 0.8% $3,300
Peru 61 27 34 0.9% 0.8% $5,900
Korea 55 24 31 0.8% 0.7% $20,400
Canada 47 25 22 0.7% 0.7% $34,000
All other countries 795 537 259 11.4% 15.3%
a PPP=Purchasing Power Parity.
b Includes 105,000 Hondurans granted temporary protected status in December 1998.
Sources: Office of Policy and Planning (U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service), “Estimates of the
Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States: 1990 to 2000.”
Per Capita PPP figures from the CIA World Fact Book, “Rank Order.GDP.Per Capita (PPP).” Available at
Appendix 1. Major Sex Trafficking Raids in the Western United States InvolvingKorean Nationals, for 2000-2005
Date City/Area Case # Description
August2005 Dallas (Texas)
July2005 San Francisco and Los Angeles Operation“Gilded Cage”(simultaneousraids conducted in both cities)
November 2005 2003 Denver (CO) Denver (CO) Operation“Rising Sun”(not clear if thisoperation tiedto earlier case in 2003)
November 2000 Seattle (WA) Operation“Pacific Breeze”
42 Large-scale federal raid of 8 Korean “spas” in theDallas area. Of the 42 women arrested in the August raid, some worked in the sex trade in Seouland knew they would work as prostitutes in theU.S. Others said they thought they were coming torestaurants and bars, only to be thrown intobathhouses. Most were in their late 20s and early30s. All paid broker fees of up to $15,000 and wererequired to repay the debt in full before beingallowed to leave (passports were often confiscated).34 of the 42 women were deported.
150 (104 inSF and 46 in LA) A force of 400 federal and local law officers raided 11 suspected brothels and arrested 27 suspects inthe San Francisco Bay Area; over $2 million incash was recovered. In the Los Angeles area, 18suspects were arrested and over $1 million in assetswere seized. Most of the Korean women detained for prostitution were between 20 and 27 years old.
16 Local police raided18 Asian massage parlors andarrested 35 people over a six-month period. Thewomen incurred smuggling debts of between$10,000 and $30,000 and were not allowed to leaveuntil the debts were paid off; the women were alsopurportedly taken gambling in order to encouragethem to accrue larger debts.
n.a. A years-long investigation that targeted more than40 massage parlors in Colorado that were said to bepart of a complex, multi-state network of brothelsthat fed illicit funds to a criminal organization inSouth Korea.
100+ A year long investigation culminated in the arrestand indictment of a man thought to be theringleader of a scheme that trafficked as many as40 Korean immigrants per month across the borderbetween the US and Canada. According toauthorities, each of the mmigrants were expected tofront $3000 and many of them were known to be inprostitution.
* This list is a preliminary draft only. Sources and additional information will be listed later.
Appendix 2. Satellite Map of US-Canada Border (Showing Sumas Mountain or “LittleKorea” and Porthill, Idaho)
This map shows the border between the United States and Canada. According to mostsources, the bulk of Korean women smuggled or trafficked into the United States throughCanada arrive first at Vancouver Airport. They are then picked up by car, or travel on foot,and transported across the border. One popular spot in the 1990s was Sumas Mountain,known as “Little Korea.” This is southeast of Vancouver, right on the border. As more anmore attention has been paid to certain spots, the smugglers have tended to move eastward.Porthill, Idaho (on the far right side of the map) has been identified as another smugglinglocation.