U.S. Department of State 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report - Republic of Korea

Republic of Korea (Tier 1)

South Korea is a source, transit and destination country for women trafficked for sexual exploitation. Victims come mainly from Southeast Asia (particularly the Philippines and Thailand), China, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Women often enter South Korea on "entertainer" visas and are forced to work as prostitutes in bars and private clubs. South Korean women are also trafficked abroad to Japan and the United States.

The Government of South Korea fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government recognizes that trafficking is a national problem and undertakes comprehensive efforts to prevent it, protect victims and prosecute traffickers. The government's decision to apply stricter standards in the issuance of "entertainer" visas is a positive move and will require further monitoring. The government has taken important steps to reduce police corruption associated with trafficking.


Many government agencies undertake education and prevention campaigns. The Korean National Police Agency prints materials in various languages explaining the dangers of trafficking and detailing the assistance and services offered to victims by the government. Thousands of police officers visit schools to discuss trafficking issues with children. The highest-ranking woman police officer has reached out to foreign embassies and potential trafficking victims. South Korean embassies in source countries distribute leaflets warning visa applicants of sex trafficking.


South Korea has no anti-trafficking law, but uses a variety of criminal statutes to prosecute traffickers. In 2002, the government reported that it detained and investigated 450 suspected traffickers, indicted 90, and convicted 68 perpetrators. Penalties varied based on the criminal statute applied, but three years was the average sentence. South Korea cooperates internationally on law enforcement, working with INTERPOL and national governments to identify and arrest traffickers. Senior police officials have addressed incidents of corruption in their lower ranks, and two Korean consular officials were indicted for accepting bribes to issue visas.


Government protection efforts are comprehensive and officials are aware of the need to protect victims. The Ministry of Gender Equality provides assistance for temporary and long-term shelters, which offer trafficking victims free lodging and food, medical assistance, counseling, and legal services. The government also provides funding to domestic NGOs, which offer victims shelter. The rights of foreign victims are generally respected, and they are not charged with illegal employment or residency. Victims are provided with free legal services to seek compensation for unpaid wages. When trafficking victims report a crime or act as a witness in court, their identity and personal information are kept confidential for their personal protection.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.