U.S. Department of State 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report - Republic of Korea

Republic of Korea (Tier 1)

The Republic of Korea (R.O.K.) is a source, transit, and destination country for women who are trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Women from Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.), the Philippines, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries are trafficked for sexual exploitation to the R.O.K. Korean women are trafficked to Japan and to the United States, sometimes via Canada or Mexico, for forced prostitution.

The Government of the Republic of Korea fully complies with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. During 2005, the government continued to provide substantial resources for victim care, and remains a pioneer and global leader on anti-trafficking education and demand reduction measures. The government sustained an aggressive law enforcement campaign aimed at curbing trafficking and exploitation of women. The government also continues to make significant progress to strengthen victim support mechanisms and improve the treatment of women in Korean society. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family (MOGEF) and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) play leading roles in the effort to curb trafficking and exploitation.


The Republic of Korea's 2004 "Act on the Punishment of Intermediating in the Sex Trade and Associated Acts" specifically prohibits trafficking in persons, including debt bondage, and related activities. The anti-trafficking law also carries stiff penalties, including up to 10 years' imprisonment, up to $86,000 in fines, and seizure of assets and property acquired as a result of trafficking. There are also a number of related criminal laws that may be used to prosecute trafficking-related crime. In 2005, police arrested 28 people for trafficking-related crimes under the 2004 Act. The government prosecuted 27 suspected traffickers and convicted 26 of them. Twenty-two received prison terms of between eight months and seven years. The law sends a clear message that the government is serious about taking action against a crime that went largely unpunished in the past. The Korean Government is cooperating with the United States on trafficking-related investigations.


The Republic of Korea showed considerable efforts to protect victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking over the last year. The government's anti-trafficking law authorized the establishment of assistance facilities, counseling centers, and shelters for victims. Additionally, the law established a solid structure of care, including social, legal, and medical assistance available to both foreign and domestic victims of trafficking. Currently, there are 23 general shelters, 16 shelters dedicated to children, two shelters dedicated to foreign victims, two rehabilitation centers, four group homes, and 29 counseling centers. In 2005, the government provided approximately $22 million in funding for victim care, including funding for a key program for vocational training for victims. As a result of this training, 24 victims started their own businesses and another 239 found other employment or enrolled in school. The MOGEF also established a Center for Women's Human Rights to provide overall assistance to trafficking prevention facilities. The Crime Victims Support Division, which is present in 50 prosecutors' offices across the country, provided support to victims/witnesses by facilitating and guiding these individuals through the legal process with personal protection and counseling services. Foreign victims were eligible to remain in the Republic of Korea under temporary status (through G-1 visas) in order to redress harms that occurred as a result of their being trafficked and to receive benefits.


The government acknowledges that trafficking is a problem and has undertaken a number of significant prevention measures, including efforts aimed at demand reduction. The government continues to operate a "John School," which is designed to educate men about trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. To date, over 1,000 men have participated in this program. Also, during 2005, over 74 regional government officials were trained to detect, investigate, and prevent trafficking in persons. The government continued to work through its anti-trafficking planning unit to implement its master plan on preventing prostitution. Finally, the government continued its cooperation with United States Forces Korea (USFK) to address sexual exploitation surrounding USFK bases in the country. As a result, sources suggest a significant decline in the number of foreign women working near U.S. bases.


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