Korean Businesses Brace for Prostitution Crackdown

(Photo from Thomas Hawk/Flickr, via Women's eNews)

The New York Post caused a stir among Korean adult entertainment and massage businesses recently with its articles about advertisements for prostitution services in the Korean American Times, a Korean-language publication owned by Myungsuk Lee, a Queens State Assembly candidate.

Lee told the Post that the ads were an oversight, but the paper found that some of the ads led back to businesses housed at the same address as Lee’s publishing and campaign offices, at Prince Street and 35th Avenue in Flushing. A Post reporter was offered sex services when he visited one of the massage parlors.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown told the Post that he would meet with his vice squad to look into the allegations. Meanwhile, adult entertainment businesses braced for a crackdown, The Korea Times reported in the excerpt translated below.

After the news spread, adult entertainment establishments in Queens that are owned by Koreans were extremely tense. According to the businesses concerned, the number of Korean prostitution businesses in Queens, including Flushing are considerable. In addition, prostitution is conducted through websites.

“Actually, these days, the regulation has been strict, so I provide the services very carefully,” said one person who is involved with an adult entertainment establishment in Flushing. “This issue has triggered [scrutiny of] businesses that are not related to prostitution, such as hostess bars, which can be implicated. It is likely that with the crackdown, the climate will get stricter, so I am considering suspending the business.”

Earlier this month, the Korea Times also ran two articles on “visiting sex services,” in which Korean prostitutes from New York were arrested in Alabama and in New Jersey.

In June, CNN told the story of a woman named ‘Soo’ from South Korea, who was imprisoned and forced to work as a prostitute in San Francisco. The report’s vivid details on the miserable conditions that sex slaves from Asia endure triggered an Immigration and Customs Enforcement crackdown on human trafficking, the Korea Times reported — though the article did not include an official confirmation of the crackdown by ICE officials.

ICE’s enforcement of human trafficking laws has been the strictest in Korean-populated areas of Eastern and Southern States such as New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Atlanta and so on, where prostitution has been prevalent recently.

In an interview with Korea Times, a person concerned with the investigation who preferred not to give his or her name said, “I cannot describe the details during the investigation, but we are now investigating the trafficking of Korean women from various angles.”

According to this person, most Korean prostitutes in spas and massage parlors are forced to turn tricks to pay their debts in Korea. They are sometimes confined, and not permitted to go out freely.

The person at ICE explained that the human rights abuses are severe. For example, to pay their debts, women are forced to work without any break. They cannot report their treatment to the police, because they are threatened by the brokers and owners with deportation.

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