This Korean newspaper report might be the first I’ve ever seen that explicitly treats men and trans as victims of sex trafficking. I’ve seen them added in as an afterthought but never the main characters in the story. I guess it’s a sort of gender equality, but, as usual, while exploitative practices seem to be present, the sex workers involved want to travel (to Japan, see last paragraph). Also note that the fact of someone’s paying facilitators of travel or employment does not by itself signify anything sinister: research with undocumented migrants the world over demonstrates their willingness to pay to get where they want to go (apart from academic research, see media reports here, here and here). Neither does the involvement of organised crime signify that the activity being described is by definition specially exploitative. We’d need more information to know what’s actually going on here.
Thanks to Roger Tatoud for bringing this to my attention, and note that his own blog discusses women as clients today.
Joong Ang Daily, Seoul
By Jang Joo-young and Kim Mi-ju, 10 March 2009
Police yesterday arrested a group of traffickers who allegedly recruited Korean men and transgenders and illegally transported them to Japan to work in the sex industry there.
After discovering that the suspects have maintained close ties with the Japanese Mafia – the Yakuza – in running their business, police asked Japanese law enforcement to join in a joint investigation. Police are also looking for the remaining suspects in connection with the case.
The two arrested traffickers, identified as Park and Lim, are being questioned along with 14 male and transgender sex workers, according to investigators in charge of the case at Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency. Park has been detained for questioning as of yesterday. Lim and the recruited sex workers are being questioned without detention.
Investigators have found that Park and Lim had sent over 30 male and transgender sex workers to Japan to work in brothels in Yokohama’s red light district since January 2007, charging them fees ranging from 10 million won ($6,443) to 15 million won.
Police said Park has amassed a total of 500 million won for offering such jobs. Some of the people he transported to Japan told police they were sometimes forced to have sex with Park, despite the fact that he knows he is HIV-positive, police said.
Those brought to work in the Japanese port city worked at Yakuza-operated brothels and were forced to pay an extra 80,000 yen ($811) per month to the Yakuza in “protection fees.” They received between 15,000 yen and 20,000 yen for having sex with clients.
An investigator in charge of the case said most of those booked for participating in the sex trade told police they went Japan to “earn a large amount of money in a short period of time to get a sex change operation.”