09/11/2006, 00.00

US charges South Korea with human trafficking, Seoul denies

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
A report by the US department of Labour claims the South Korea is the point of destination of human trafficking. South Korean authorities deny the claim and point to the report's lack of data.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – A South Korean official yesterday challenged the United States' claim that South Korea was "a frequent destination for trafficked women and children from the former Soviet Union and neighbouring Asian nations". He did however state that the issue was currently under review.

The charges come in a report issued by the US Department of Labour on the status of human trafficking in the 137 countries it surveyed.

The report lists Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan and Romania as some of the countries that traffic women and children to South Korea.

Indonesia traffics children who often become sexually enslaved, said the report, and women and girls as young as 10 years old from Kyrgyzstan are transported for sexual exploitation and end up in countries like South Korea, the report said.

An official with South Korea's Ministry of Labour discounted the report as "groundless," saying that there is no evidence that children are being trafficked from Kyrgyzstan or other countries to South Korea.

"We have no data and information that foreign children are sexually exploited here," the official added. "The US report failed to provide exact data and figures, and leaves us with few clues. There is no credible evidence that South Korea is involved in human trafficking," said an official at the Justice Ministry's Immigration Bureau.

"Right now, we are discussing with the Labour Ministry and other government agencies to make an official response to the report," he added.

The Kyrgyzstan government has also said it contacted with South Korea's law-enforcement agencies to look into the issue.

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