The term “slavery” may seem rooted in the past, not associated with modern day. A U.S. professor, however, has set about to reaffirm its meaning, create awareness, and combat the slave trade.
David Batstone, a professor at the University of San Francisco, with his non-profit corporation, Not for Sale, is spearheading the fight against modern-day slavery including its most common form, sex trafficking.
But his visit here and special guest sermon for the Freedom Sunday event at the Onnuri Community Church in Seoul on Sunday was not just a coincidence.
Through his team of investigators at Not for Sale, Batstone found that South Korean women are one of the biggest victims of the U.S. underground trafficking trade.
“My team and I discovered that the second largest group of victims being brought into the U.S. today for human trafficking and slavery are South Korean girls,” he said, the largest being China.
Batstone had a private investigator referred to him, by the local police department, after discovering 13 brothels, linked together by a single owner, from San Francisco to Sacramento. All containing South Korean women behind bars and barbed wires, according to the president of Not for Sale.
The U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons report states that South Korean women are sex trafficked to the U.S., Canada, Japan and Australia.
The professor of business and professional studies also found that at its lowest estimate, 300,000 North Korean women are trafficked for sex and can be seen all throughout Southeast Asia.
“We are seeing a rise in North Korean refugees and trafficking victims that are coming to their centers starting in China and moving their way to Thailand, Cambodia and even further down to Malaysia,” said Batstone.
“This rise reflects the desperation inside the country which is leading to a flood of people who see that they have a better chance of survival by leaving North Korea.”
According to the professor, boys and girls between the age of 12 and 17 are the most commonly found victims of the sex trade.
David Batstone, president of Not for Sale, gives a special guest sermon on modern-day slavery at a church in Seoul on Sunday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
These two reasons motivated Batstone to come to Seoul and ask the Korean community to take steps toward anti-slavery movements.
But abolishing slavery, like the U.S. had thought it had done in the past, does not simply mean freeing the men, women and children, according to Batstone. It is also allowing them equal opportunity and sparing them of judgment, difficult for a country that has strong social prejudice toward its women, with remnants of a Confucius ideology that can also be seen in the Christian community.
In taking the step to embrace these “impure” women, Batstone more specifically asked the Korean Christian community to be the first, famous throughout the world for its zeal.
“The Korean church has done to missions around the globe what no other church has done,” he said.
The California native commented on the sex trade in South Korea, including entertainment visas and marriage brokering, saying that the sex trade here is “very international and cosmopolitan,” with women from all over the globe.
According to the U.S. report, Korea is a “source, transit and destination” country for human trafficking, specifically for the sex industry.
The report states that men and women from Russia, Uzbekistan, Morocco, China and Southeast Asian countries are brought into Korea for forced labor and prostitution.
According to Batstone, the entertainment visa has been exploited in Korea, saying that government officials “simply winked and looked the other way.” The E-6 arts and performance visas are offered to those that make profits through entertainment, music, “play,” and “others of the like,” according to the immigration website.
“Foreign women from Russia, Ukraine, Mongolia, China and other Southeast Asian countries who enter the country on entertainment visas, including those recruited to be singers and bar workers near U.S. military facilities, were trafficked for forced prostitution,” said the annual report.
Batstone also commented on the issue of international brides that come into the country, saying “typically you find a high trafficking element in them,” and that the brides have “very little recourse to seek justice if they have been abused or otherwise.”
The report said some brides from less developed countries that arrive here through international marriage brokers are subjected to forced prostitution or labor.
Batstone and Eddie Byun, pastor at the Onnuri English Ministry, came together to host the Freedom Sunday and urge those to fast on March 13, donating the money saved on food to the fight against slavery.
The event took place in conjunction with churches in 150 different countries and Onnuri acting as a hub.
According to Batstone, Not for Sale does not solely work with the Christian community, but also works with business leaders, government, universities and even athletes.
Batstone became involved in the fight against modern-day slavery after the owner of his local Indian restaurant was found to have been responsible for trafficking over 500 teens, mostly between the ages of 15 to 16. During his investigation of the global slave trade, he came across a woman in Thailand that had rescued children out of slavery.
Not for Sale was found soon after to help fund anti-slavery projects, like building a center in northern Thailand for children rescued from slavery.
By Robert Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org