“In a poor mountain village in Thailand, a little girl named Senra, not yet eight, is sold into prostitution by her parents, as was her older sister Yailun. The itinerant broker who pays 360,000 yen (roughly $3,600) and a bottle of whiskey for Senra was once one of Bangkok's street children and was sexually abused by a white man. Yailun, who was shut up in a brothel and forced to service wealthy international patrons with a taste for small girls, develops AIDS and is abandoned in a garbage dump. She manages to crawl back to her home in the mountains, barely alive, but her sickness worsens and her parents burn her to death. A whistleblower brings the case to the attention of Keiko Otowa, who is in Bangkok as a member of a social welfare NGO, and she starts an investigation. Eventually Otowa uncovers an international network of illegal organ sales involving not only the drug mafia but politicians, the army, and the police as well. The parents who paid forty million yen for Senra's heart in order to save their own son's life are Japanese.” (Yami No Kodomotachi (Children of the Dark) by Seok-il Yang, 2002, 401 pages, http://www.booksfromjapan.jp/authors/item/506-seok-il-yang).
This was a story shared with me tonight, Sunday, February 9, 2014. Tonight’s Hope Be Restored meeting was difficult. For those that don’t know, Hope Be Restored is my church’s Justice group. It stands for Helping the Oppressed and Prisoners of injustice Escape and BE RESTORED. A link for this website is at the bottom of this blog. We meet monthly and brainstorm ways to bring freedom and justice to the oppressed. Sometimes we have guest speakers that will come and share information. Sometimes they are people who manage NGOs that help these victims. They can also be people with a voice who do research and share their research with government officials hoping that they will be persuaded to change laws or they share their information with people like us to bring awareness to these issues.
Our guest speaker tonight was Dr. Sunyoung Park, a criminologist who has been studying Child Sex Tourism by Korean men in Southeast Asia and its relations with Human Trafficking. The information she presented to us tonight was the same information she presents to political leaders in Korea. It was powerful and she didn’t sugar coat anything. It was simple, straight, cold hard facts. Even though it brought tears to my eyes, it unfortunately does not faze the political leaders who can enforce stricter laws, helping these victims of trafficking.
She told us “most Koreans believe that human trafficking is not their business.” But in 2007, U.S. Trafficking in Persons (TIP) reported that “Korean men are one of the major customers of CST in SE Asia and the Pacific Islands, 7 straight times.” In 2010 another report done by UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNOCD) reported the same things. The trend is continuing to rise every year. Koreans don’t believe they are pedophiles and here is their explanation as why, “they only prefer sexual relations with minors if such options and conditions are allowed, rather than pursuing minors exclusively’” as some American and European Tourist do.
After sitting through her presentation, do I fully blame the Korean men? Yes and No. Let’s start with “No”. Reason 1: Prostitution is illegal in S. Korea yet I have been to many well-known RLDs and seen police cars driving through to keep the peace in those areas. If this law was truly being enforced then I’m pretty sure I would not be able to find these places, much less see police driving around in them.
Reason 2: In 2012 a survey of 500 Korean men was done. They were asked if they knew that engaging in overseas prostitution was illegal as domestic prostitution, “74% of them said they were not aware that overseas prostitution is subject to punishment under anti-prostitution law.”
Reason 3: Also, in a 2013 TIP report, The S. Korean government was “denounced for not having prosecuted a single Korean man for engaging in overseas child prostitution in the past 6 years. Even though 119 men were arrested as sex buyers between 2011-2013, 3 paid a fine, 6 cases were dismissed, and 100 received suspension of indictment on the condition of attending a 2-day John school program. “
What can cause a wealthy, highly educated, seemingly normal person, to seek out sex in another country, especially with minors. Well, I would have to agree with my pastor on this when I say, pornography. I spent a semester of college studying sexual addictions, complications, crimes, and therapy. One thing I found was that pornography seemed to be a common theme for how most people got started. Porn changes the brain. It stimulates the same parts of the brain as any drug does. It may start out as a mild, soft, “innocent” indulgence but as with any drug, there is the potential for it to grow. You want more and more because the mild stuff just doesn’t stimulate you anymore. S. Korea is the number one consumer of porn in the world. I have had students tell me their moms won’t let them hang out with a certain 5th grade student at my school because he looks at porn. This is a serious issue that people are not taking seriously. The facts are there yet so many people, all around the world, have no problem with porn!!!
But wait, I never got to my “yes.” Now some of you may be thinking, well these are all excuses you are giving to these men. Maybe they are but lets compare this situation to that of a young child and a hot stovetop. If a young child doesn’t know the burner of a stovetop is hot and they touch it, is it their fault they burned themselves? No, because they were not aware that a hot object such as that, would cause so much pain. Now, if mom or dad makes this young child aware by telling them “Hey, if you touch that you are going to burn yourself” but the child decides to touch it anyway, then of course it is the child’s fault, because they knew there would be a consequence.
I feel the same can apply for Korean men. This is a matter of awareness (or lack there of). If these men are made aware of how their decisions are affecting the world, how they are stealing the lives of children, such as in the story above, yet continue to do these things, they are definitely to blame.
It’s also a matter of consequence. As you can see from what I wrote in the “No” section, unlike the stovetop situation, even though there are laws in place, there are no consequences for these men who commit these crimes. They aren’t learning a lesson because there is no consequence to follow.
Korea needs to do many things. I’m not a politician but I am a person with a brain and here is what I think. Government should follow up with the laws that are already in place. They need to stop averting their eyes from this situation in order to “save face.” Government is being made aware but the information is not fazing them. Their hearts are hardened to this issue and they don’t see a problem with it. They need to be broken down. Since victims are not Korean citizens, they are not making this issue a priority.
They also need prayer and church involvement. This is a nation with churches everywhere. There are even churches inside the RLDs, but they aren’t doing anything. This is also an issue of social justice, which is close to the heart of God. Being people of God it should matter to us. I’m so grateful to be a part of Onnuri because, after years of prayer by the English Ministry at our church, the Korean side started their own Justice team this year. A spokesperson of the team said that in the first meeting, people were only there because the pastor called them and asked them to attend. They said they had no idea what this was about. (Once again, lack of awareness).
I titled this blog Supply and Demand Go Hand in Hand because the supply of this is what ultimately needs to stop. Yes, corrupt government should change and fight against this but even if and when they do, if the supply doesn’t stop, neither will the demand. If you are reading this right now and are participating in watching porn, prostitution, or any sort of trafficking, I pray you are convicted and I beg you to stop, especially if you are a Christian.
This is why I do what I do here in Korea. This is why I spend my Saturdays, going to RLD and Restoration houses. You see, like most of you reading this, I was born in a land of privilege, a land where I have freedom, a land that is also becoming more and more aware and upset of this issue. I was given a family that loves me. A family that would never even dream of celebrating I was a girl so they could sell me into prostitution. With this blessing I can’t just sit and watch.
I beg those of you reading this, who have the same blessings as me, to get involved with these issues of injustice. It doesn’t have to be trafficking. It can be abortion, orphans, homeless, single parents, world hunger, whatever God lays on your heart. I beg you to get out of the comfortable lives you are in and get uncomfortable for the cause of justice. Whatever God has blessed you with, whether it be financially, orally, physically, your position of authority where you work, whatever it is, use it to fight for those with no voice. Who cares if it seems un-kosher, what people are doing to these innocent children is definitely not kosher and deserves what’s coming to it. These people need a voice. These people need to know someone loves them. These people need to know the healing, restoration, power of Jesus Christ. God is calling you to something bigger than your tiny little comfort zone that won’t matter when you die. You want your life to have meaning then do something that will give it meaning! This world is dark and evil. It needs more light. I’m going to let my light shine as bright as possible. Will you join me? Someone is waiting on the other side of your obedience.