By Na Jeong-ju
Korean communities in Australia are campaigning to call for a crackdown on Korean prostitutes who have entered the country on working holiday visas.
More than 2,000 Koreans living in Australia have expressed their willingness to join a street campaign in Sydney, an alliance of the communities said Thursday.
“It’s known that about 1,000 Korean prostitutes are working in Australia. That’s about 17 percent of all prostitutes in the country,” the group said in a statement.
“The surge in the number of Korean prostitutes is largely attributed to legal loopholes in the working holiday visa system and a lack of administrative monitoring.”
Unlike Korea, prostitution is legal in Australia. A growing number of Korean prostitutes have flown to Australia as it became more difficult for them to make money here Korea due to a government crackdown on the sex industry, officials said.
According to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, some 30,000 Koreans are staying in Australia on working holiday visas. These visas allow young people aged 18 to 30 to travel, study and work in foreign countries.
“Korean prostitutes have become a social concern here since last year. They attract clients through leaflets and advertisements in local papers,” said Oh Jin-yong, a 27-year-old student living in King’s Cross in Sydney, where a number of Korean-run brothels have been set up.
“The problem is that they do business in residential districts by renting apartments and houses. They are now sprawling into smaller cities.”
The association of Korean communities said Korean prostitutes are a national disgrace.
“Many Australians take the problem very seriously. Korea’s reputation is being tarnished as they see the country as an exporter of prostitutes,” said an association spokesman.
“Some jokingly say prostitutes are one of Korea’s major export items. It is shameful for all of us.”
The association said it decided to launch the campaign to urge the Korean and Australian governments to revise the working holiday system and draw up countermeasures against Korean prostitutes.
In June, police arrested a brothel owner in Sydney on suspicion of hiring Korean sex workers since 2009.
The prostitutes entered the country on working holiday visas with the help of middlemen.
They attracted the women by telling them that “prostitution is legal in Australia so you can work comfortably and also earn a lot of money,” an officer said.
Since the Korean government launched its crackdown on brothels and other sex businesses in 2004 in accordance with the Anti-Prostitution Law, many sex workers have moved to Australia, Japan, the United States and other countries.
A report recently submitted to the National Assembly by the ministry showed that about 50,000 and 30,000 Korean women are engaging in prostitution in Japan and the United States, respectively.
Accordingly, the number of crimes involving Koreans staying on such visas is rising at an alarming rate in Australia and other countries.
The ministry said 72 cases of felonies, including murder and rape, committed against or by Korean working visa holders were reported in Australia in 2009, while no such crimes were reported in 2005.