On July 12, the US State Department submitted a report on human trafficking to the Congress, and in it, Korea was given the third grade (the lowest grade). The report was written based on the opinions given by 82 American embassies and consulates, NGOs, public officials, police, journalists and victims in the surveyed countries. The Korean government immediately protested its low grading and demanded a revision. But what is there to revise? Was the government really unaware of the fact that Korea is a backward country when it comes to human trafficking?
For the past few years, Korea has been categorized as a country with serious human trafficking problems, both domestic and international. So the US report is merely a reflection of this international opinion. To see if the Korean government has really been wrongfully accused, let's take a look at the criteria for assessing government effort to curb human trafficking.
Criteria one includes official investigations into cases of human trafficking, which the government hardly ever carried out. The only surveys conducted were by Gyeonggi Province (1999) and the Korea Institute for Women's Development (1993), but even these surveys limited their scope to one area or failed to reflect the current state of affairs.
Another part of criteria one that Korea fails to meet is indictment of guilty parties. Even if people caught trafficking are convicted, their sentence is light. Ironically, it is the victims of human trafficking forced into prostitution who are punished, facing prosecution and fines for breaking the Anti-prostitution Act. Foreigners who have been victimized are not exempt from various fines and penalties, and are forcibly repatriated to their countries, where they are vulnerable to the violence and threats of human traffickers in their countries. (criteria 2)
With the exception of a few police stations that voluntarily train their policemen on preventive measures, policemen in Korea do not receive state-initiated education on ways to prevent human trafficking. (criteria 3) Not only that, the government failed to investigate and punish policemen who accepted bribes in return for condoning prostitution. Also, the government failed to come up with preventive measures. (criteria 7)
Even a brief look at the criteria shows that the Korea portrayed in the US report is no different from the real Korea.
It is true that since the inauguration of the Ministry of Gender Equality, the government had been making plans for the prevention of human trafficking. The Ministry is speeding up its preparations for the legislation of the Special Act on the Prevention of Human Trafficking' and the establishment of an effective support system for victims. Gyeonggi Province decided for the first time to allocate part of its ordinary budget to funding a civil counseling center for Women's welfare. It is a pity that the US report was announced before such activities were in full swing.
In conclusion, we demand that the US share the blame for Korea's problem of prostitution and human trafficking. The US government and army played a significant role in worsening the problem in Korea. American militarism boosted prostitution, and parts of the US army even joined hands with human traffickers in the US in buying and selling Korean women. The US is no doubt aware of all this. Therefore, we will not only ask the Korean government to step up efforts to resolve the problem of prostitution and human trafficking but will also urge the US government to acknowledge its part in the problem and to come up with responsible measures.