The Demand Side of Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in the Philippines: Focus on the Role of Korean Men

The Demand Side of Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in the Philippines:
Focus on the Role of Korean Men
By Jean Enriquez, Executive Director, CATW-AP

Sex trafficking in the Philippines consists of the following forms: using employment as a pretext to bring women and children to prostitution, using marriage to bring women to sexual slavery, pimping women for the use of soldiers, and organizing travel packages to include women for sex tourists.

Conservative estimates of women trafficked to prostitution range from 300,000 to 500,000. In CATW-AP research, at least 30% of our victim-respondents would be minors. The majority of them come from the rural areas, had primary to secondary education, belong to families of 6 to 11 members. A striking 75% of those in prostitution are previous victims of sexual abuse.

There are indigenous women trafficked, coming from the following ethnic groups: B’laan, T’Boli, Kaulo, while the Moslems are Maranao, Mandaya, Badjao, Sama, Manobo and Lumad.

Destinations of domestic trafficking are mostly cities in the National Capital Region, Laoag, Cabanatuan, Dagupan, Olongapo, Angeles, Batangas, Cavite, Cebu, GenSan, Kidapawan, Davao and Zamboanga. Trafficking across borders brings women to slavery-like and debt-bondage conditions in Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Syria. But still more are brought to prostitution in the pretext of employment or marriage to Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Hongkong and Cyprus.

Trafficking to Japan and Korea took on a different character since requirements for entertainers to leave have been made stricter. Filipino women are married off to Japanese and Korean nationals, and the former’s visas are paid for. However, cases reveal that women are eventually transferred to the sex industry, especially when they could not pay off their debts to the Japanese facilitator.

In our documentation, the recruiters are mostly women, known to victims as their own relatives. Only 39.6% of the perpetrators are male. However, the women did not count the customers among perpetrators. Also, only 149 of the 287 victims were able to name their perpetrators. Most of those named were their pimps or recruiters. Only two named the juridical organization or prostitution establishment as perpetrator. Other perpetrators named are police officers, soldiers, a judge, a governor, a city councilor, barangay captain, and bar owners.

Now, who are the customers? Who constitute the demand for sex trafficking of Filipinas?

Sex Tourists

South Korea remains as the leading source of tourists for the Philippines, accounting for 22.3 percent of July 2007 arrivals, or 62,692 tourists, according to our Department of Tourism (DOT). And it is the second fastest growing source of tourists, reflecting a 16.3% jump in the number of tourists from last year’s figures, next to Chinese.

The United States followed closely as the second biggest provider of tourists for the month with 48,560, while Japan, in third place, delivered 34,156 visitors. China and Taiwan came in fourth and fifth, sending 13,304 and 11,325 holiday-makers, respectively. In previous years’ profile of tourists, at least 62% of them are male.

Rise in arrivals directly translated to receipts and profit for the country’s tourism establishments, such as hotels, resorts, stores, restaurants, entertainment and recreation centers, spas and transport services, according to the DOT.

In world-renowned island of Boracay alone, a famous tourist spot, Koreans constitute the largest number of these tourists. They are also among the most frequently mentioned sex tourist clients by the girls trafficked, who were part of a study. Other foreign sex tourists come from Japan, France, Germany, England, China and the United States.

Korean men are frequent customers in nightclubs and massage parlors offering paid sex. In raids of sex dens in posh Makati area, women rescued allege that they were forced to have sex with foreign customers, mostly Japanese, Korean and Chinese nationals, in exchange for a fee ranging from P2,500 to P3,000 ($50-60).

Along Quezon Avenue in Quezon City, Japanese men,
Koreans, Americans and Europeans have found their way to paid sex
despite the location’s great distance from any major tourist spot.

Buying Brides

Six Korean marriage brokers were arrested in January after their Korean clients had sexual affairs with multiple Filipina women before marrying a different Filipina. Some Koreans were also bribing police to evade charges of sexual assault, encouraging corruption, Ms. Dolores Alforte of ECPAT has once testified.

CATW-AP has received a complaint from a helper in a Korean language institute based in Pasay City. There, she and other women were recruited to marry Korean men who are enrolled, with a promise to eventually bring them to Korea. The helper was being forced to sign a document to marry, so she escaped.

Another Filipina from Angeles City came to CATW-AP as she was allegedly recruited to the Unification Church of Korea (Moonies) and eventually married to a Korean man. She alleged that many Filipinas are recruited to the church and eventually brainwashed to marry Korean men in religious rites. When the Filipina was brought to Korea, the man started to abuse her physically. When the woman escaped, she was denied custody of her child.

In general, the issuance of entertainer’s visas (E-6) to female migrants from 5,578 or 79.2% of total issuances in 2000 decreased to 3,111 or 65.4% in 2005. However, the spouse visa (F-2) releases to female migrants increased from 13,376 or 37% of total issuances in 2000 to 67,441 or 76.3% in 2005.

In the early 1990’s the marriage of Korean males were mostly to females from the US and Japan, while there is already an increase of marriage to women from the Philippines, Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. But from the late 1990’s to early 2000, most international marriages of Korean men were arranged by brokers with Chinese women. While marriages with Filipino and Thai women were arranged through the Unification Church. Many of these commercialized messages end up in abuse and violence.

Owners of Business Establishments

Law enforcers in Cebu City raided Mr. Moon KTV in 2006, in Sitio Panagdait, Barangay Mabolo, and arrested the two Korean owners, the floor manager and seven women who are allegedly prostitutes.

CATW-AP received a case of a Filipina employed by a Korean businessman and was constantly courted to become his girlfriend. The Filipina secretary was not only used as a dummy for the Korean’s business, but was raped several times. The owner also attempted to traffic her to Korea through an agency known to the businessman.

ECPAT also revealed a series of incidents in which South Korean men in the Philippines were investigated on charges of sexual abuse. A South Korean doctor was indicted in Cebu in June 2003 after having sexual relationships with six girls who were under 15 years of age, she said.

Government Accountability: Why the Hesitation to Arrest Buyers?

The Philippine government’s drive to promote tourism in Korea, China and Japan seems to be paying off, with the boom in our tourism industry. The construction of international airports in the north of the Philippines facilitated the entry of tourists, especially male tourists from the North of Asia, directly to the “tourist spots” in Ilocos Sur and La Union, and these have become a “popular” destination of children trafficked from the poorest areas of the country such as Samar. Tourism campaigns are packaged in very sexualized ways, promoting therefore Filipino women in the process as part of packages.

The Philippines has included tourism among industries it offers to liberalize in World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations. Liberalization of tourism has always been part of the agenda in the WTO General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS), as part of Mode 2 (’consumption abroad’). As we already know, liberalized investments in tourism contribute to a loss of jobs in traditional sectors as fishing and agriculture. Exploitation of women and children is widespread in tourist destinations as low-paid workers, hired in precarious jobs. Women also receive 30% less than their male colleagues in comparable jobs. Worse, they are used in the marketing approaches by tour operators, many traffickers use the women in developing countries as come-on and products to be sold or “part of the destinations to be visited.”

Moreover, in countries such as the Philippines and Korea, despite the passage of anti-trafficking or anti-prostitution laws that provides for the punishment of buyers or customers, the prosecution of buyers is done with much reluctance. Up till now, we have yet to witness a conviction of a customer in the Philippines, despite several charges filed.

They are seen as “benevolent perpetrators.” Foreign men in the Philippines are viewed as huge source of dollars, may they be as tourists or businessmen. The state becomes oblivious to cost to women of such, especially in terms of sexual violence.

This “benevolent perpetrator” idea is internalized by the male customers who even brag about paying a higher fee when they allegedly sense that the woman or child is “forced into prostitution.” They do want to believe that there are women or children who “willingly enter into it.” We reject this idea outrightly. Given contexts of economic, gender and racial differentiations, the vulnerability and marginalization of women especially those from the South, and the young cannot be denied. These vulnerabilities are exploited not only by the businessmen in the sex industry but by those who use the women and children sexually in exchange for favors or cash.

Gender Socialization of Korean Men (and Filipino Women)

Patriarchy is alive and we ought to examine the structures that create the demand. In both the Philippines and Korea, as in other countries, the pressure to have early sexual experience, and multiple at that is fundamental in the definition of masculinity. In a global study of the youths (aged 18-25), young males came out considerably as more likely to be sexually experienced than young females. Also, the age at sexual debut is lower among males than among females. Typically, the median ages for a first time sexual experience are 18–20 years among females, and 15–20 years among males.
Young males are more likely than females to report multiple sexual partners. In the study, 68% of young Korean men reported multiple partnerships.

The Korean cultural wave in Asia affects the construction of desire of both men and women. First, the use of sexual violence as expression of passionate love is normalized. In the popular TV drama Full House, Jesse, the tomboyish female lead character was forced to “sell her soul” to Rain, a played by a popular Korean actor, in order to save her much-loved house. Rain, who bought the house, agreed to marry her if she works as his maid and slave. As a result, she was subjected to endless humiliation and degradation. Despite the violence inflicted upon Jesse, she fell in love with the male lead. The story ended with Jesse transforming herself into a “beautiful” and submissive woman, thus, winning the love of Rain.

Other soap operas illustrate women’s subordinate and slave-like situations in marriage. Her role is limited to household matters and could not participate in productive work as men did. She brings glory to marriage only through pregnancy and motherhood. Worse, women are pitted against each other in the fight for a man’s love and affection.

The influences of these television dramas are as alarming as they are dramatic. The youth, who are the most vulnerable among viewers, are no longer satisfied to watch drama on television but they want to be in the drama. Their ideas of beauty have evolved to resemble their new icons. In China, the craze has meant more women undergoing plastic surgery. In the Philippines, young women and men emulate these actors and actresses’ hairstyle, clothing and even skin color! Whiter and fairer skin are perceived as much more attractive. More and more young women also are thrilled at the sight of Korean men. It does not seem a coincidence, therefore, that the export of Filipina brides to Korea is at an all-time high.

Addressing the Demand Side

Currently, we are pushing for an anti-prostitution law in the Philippines that will increase the penalties for buyers in the sex industry. If we believe that demand determines the existence of sex trafficking, it is being asserted by our Coalition that higher penalties should be imposed on those who demand for a steady supply of women and children be provided them – the buyers.

In a parallel manner, we have started a project on educating young men in the Philippines aged 17-21, in camps that change not only their knowledge on gender issues, but also their attitudes and behavior on sexuality, to women, to themselves, and to the issue of prostitution. Since 2004, we have conducted 8 camps in the three major islands of the Philippines, educating around 304 young male leaders of universities and communities.

In the camps, we start by revisiting the socialization of men and women, making the men more conscious of the social institution’s messages to them as they grow up and how theses shaped their ideas of manhood and womanhood. Through games, role-playing, visual arts, debates, the young men were able reflect on their attitudes and treatment of women, as reinforced by society.

They also realized the impact of such attitudes and behaviors to both women and to themselves as men, how such socialization has dehumanized them. The testimony of a survivor of prostitution is the most emotional experience for them. The boys start to cry as their myths of prostitution are slowly crushed. Their ideas that women enjoy prostitution is debunked when the survivor talk about how she did not want it, being a victim of incestuous rape when she was young, how she looked for places to escape or dignified work, but end up in exploitative situations, being a woman.

The camps end with the young men redefining their definition of manhood or masculinity. Let me show you a video that a young man did himself, as an example of redefining masculinity. (Show “First Time.”)

After the camp, the graduates most often organize forums in their schools and communities, and each of these forums is attended by 150-500 students. There is a multiplier effect. They have also formed their organizations to fight prostitution in their own areas and to call on other men to stop using and buying women. They agreed to call their common organization YSAGE or Youth and Students for the Advancement of Gender Equality.

The recommendation, therefore, is a complementation of legal and normative measures. While we hold perpetrators, such as rapists and buyers of prostitution sex, accountable, we hope and act to create new generations of men who will reduce the demand side of trafficking.

6 thoughts on “The Demand Side of Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in the Philippines: Focus on the Role of Korean Men

  1. Pingback: koreans in the philippines -

  2. Only God himself can change the evil that men do, If the economy was not so bad the young girls and boys would find a way out sometime the parence sell their own child for money it is pure evil, the high demand for females and the low cost all over Asia and South America it breaks my heart.”

  3. Hello po san po ba kayo location dito sa cavite.ako po dito ako sa san rafael 11 novaleta nakatira eh.gusto ko pong mg tanong kong on going parin kyong nag ma match .sa international wedding po. Gusto ko da ng sasali eh kong pwedi.

  4. I dont think the article captures the complete picture of Filipino women engaged in sex work.

    Many Philipino women engage in sex work of their own will. I live in UAE and there is a large population of unskilled Filipino women that came here for better economic opportunities. They usually work as waitresses, maids, at stores etc but some of them engage in sex work on the side to make some quick easy money.

  5. Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust the Lord with all of or heart and lean not unto our own understanding. Put Him first n everything we do, and He will direct our paths”.. these problems and more are works of the devil…. If we focus on putting God first– then we will be set free. READ D BIBLE, so we will be armed with the truths!!

    May I invite you to join you our NewsForum @Tycoon to help intensify info awareness and wake up the slumbering leaders of this country and those engaged in human sex trafficking be put behind bars!!!!

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