Human trafficking stops here
6/7/2012 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- It's a dream many young men and women have -- singing, dancing, "making it" in show business. Sadly, countries struggling to overcome high unemployment rates are preyed upon by human traffickers who convince these young individuals into pursuing their dreams in another country.
Once lured there by the promise of a good job, many are forced to work in conditions unlike those explained to them back home.
According to the U.S. Department of State's "What is Modern Slavery?" page, forced labor and bonded labor are the major forms of human trafficking. Forced labor is marked by traffickers exploiting high rates of unemployment or poverty. Bonded labor is when traffickers exploit workers for the debt they incurred for accepting employment in the first place. Both forms can be seen around the world and often around military installations.
"Guys think they are helping women out by buying drinks, but in actuality they are feeding back into the black market," said Eric Sterman, 8th Security Forces Squadron investigator. "Buying a girl a drink isn't illegal, but this is a difficult problem because there isn't a clear line."
He added that participating in human trafficking or prostitution is illegal and service members can be prosecuted under Article 92 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice if it is determined they engaged in the unlawful activity.
According to the U.N. Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking site, about 1.4 million, or 56 percent, of the people in forced labor are from Asia and the Pacific region.
Sterman said many of the girls in the local area around Kunsan are from the Philippines.
Upon visiting local establishments when he was first stationed here in early 2011, Army Sgt. Brian Siegelwax, American Forces Network, noticed possible cases of human trafficking.
"It's a supply and demand cycle, and unfortunately this problem isn't isolated to here -- it's widespread in both Korea and through the world," he said. "We choose where we spend our money. Human trafficking is a problem that needs the effort of everyone to be stopped."
Service members stationed in Korea are educated about this problem both before and after their arrival.
"Every new member to Kunsan receives training about human trafficking prior to arriving through computer-based training," said Sterman. "Once they arrive on station, they are to receive training from their unit about which off-base establishments to avoid. They are also briefed about who to report suspected human trafficking to and what to watch out for."
For more information about human trafficking and what you can do to help, view the Department of State 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report here.