South Korean police said on Sunday they had arrested five men for allegedly forcing a group of Brazilian women into sex slavery, having lured them into the country on the promise that they could become K-pop entertainers.
According to Ilsan Dongbu Police in the city of Goyang, the five men were recently arrested on charges of confinement, human trafficking, and pimping, the Korea Times reports.
Prosecutors say the crime was set in motion in July when the men reportedly reached out to seven Brazilian women in their 20s and 30s via social media who were interested in Korean pop culture.
They allegedly convinced the women that they could become models or pop stars in South Korea. After the men paid for their round-trip flights, the women arrived in South Korea in mid-July.
On arrival, the women had their passports confiscated and were placed into accommodation in Goyang and Paju of Gyeonggi Province. The men also canceled their flights back to Brazil — before selling them off to brothels for two million won ($1,650) per woman — where they were coerced into working as sex slaves.
The men also repeatedly threatened the women, warning them that they had to work to pay off the cost of their flights and that they would be arrested for prostitution if they called the police.
The women successfully contacted the Brazilian Embassy in Seoul on August 17 while their captors were distracted. After being contacted by the embassy, local police managed to rescue the women and arrest the relevant suspects. The victims are currently being looked after at a shelter for migrant women.
K-pop is one of the most popular music genres in South Korea, with the music drawing inspiration from across the globe in multiple styles and genres, and it has over recent years expanded to listeners around the world. However, its image has been somewhat damaged over a flurry of suicides, sex scandals, and various criminal activity.
In March, several high-profile K-pop stars were named as members of an online group chat that shared pornographic images of women filmed without their knowledge or consent. There have also been multiple allegations of involvement in illicit prostitution and gambling against senior industry figures, including Psy, the singer behind the 2012 international hit “Gangnam Style.”
The selling of sex is illegal in North Korea, with both prostitutes and their clients facing fines of up to a year in prison if they are found guilty. In 2016, the country’s Supreme Court upheld the 2004 anti-prostitution law after a series of legal challenges from sex workers, with Justice Kim Chang-jong arguing that the “growing trend to liberalize and promote openness in sex doesn’t condone or justify its commercialization.”
In 2015, a K-pop group Oh My Girl was detained and denied entry to the United States at Los Angeles International Airport because authorities believed the group members were “working women,” an alternative term for prostitutes.