The United States is one of the most popular destinations for immigrants throughout the world, and a number of illegal immigrants now live in the United States under various conditions. Indeed, according to the U.S. immigration authority, as of 2009, approximately seven million illegal immigrants are estimated to live in the United States, representing approximately 2.3 percent of the U.S. population (Hoefer, Rytina, & Baker, 2010).
Partly as a result of the country’s popularity among prospective immigrants, Americans are increasingly concerned about the economic and social problems that accompany illegal immigration (Smith & Edmonston, 1998), especially since the late 1980s, following the disruption of the communist system in eastern European countries (Jandl, 2007) and the acceleration of the processes of globalization (Law, 1997). Further, the media, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and law enforcement agencies are concerned about real and potential exploitation of immigrants, the involvement of organized crime groups in illegal immigration, and inhumane immigration processes (Bales, 2005; Hughes, 2000; Raymond et al., 2002; Richard, 1999; Schneider et al., 2004). These organizations tend to pay more attention to illegal immigration in which women are involved, using the term sex trafficking (Jahic & Finckenauer, 2005; Weitzer, 2007). Sex trafficking is a significant problem and is described as “the most common form of modern-day slavery” (Walker-Rodriguez & Hill, 2011). Recently a vast body of journalistic literature has been written, much of which sensationalizes the phenomenon; this literature has allowed even ordinary people to discover what sex trafficking is and how grotesque the process is, regardless of whether their knowledge is based on reliable data (Bales & Soodalter, 2009; DeStefano, 2007; Kara, 2009).
However, there is little decent scholarly work (Zhang et al., 2007) on sex trafficking to the United States. As with journalistic literature, the available studies on sex trafficking concentrate on several anecdotal and extreme cases of sex trafficking, rather than shedding light on the diverse nature and realities of sex trafficking (Bales, 2005; Hughes, 2000; Raymond et al., 2001). Many studies have been criticized for their unreliable data. In addition, though newspaper articles, government reports, and ethnographic observations have claimed that various ethnic groups are involved in sex trafficking, there is very little scholarly work that examines sex trafficking among certain ethnic groups (Zhang et al., 2007). The biased and scant scholarly work regarding sex trafficking in the United States, even if it is unintentional, appears to have hampered the ability of American society and policymakers to comprehend sex trafficking. Therefore, to understand the spectrum of sex trafficking, it is essential to conduct more empirical research studies based on unbiased data, covering diverse ethnic groups. In this respect, this study attempts to deal with the supposed sex trafficking of Korean women, which has not been thoroughly addressed, despite the fact that law enforcement authorities have registered concerns about it.
[Korea] has been a homogeneous society linguistically, culturally, for so long. It has prided itself on the purity of the bloodline, the so-called bloodline. Right now, [integration] is about fitting into the Korean context, learning Korean language and not teaching your kids Vietnamese or Tagalog or some other foreign language. True multiculturalism would involve mixing and blending and fusing of different languages, cultures, customs. We don't see much of that — except in places like Wongok Village.
Between expats, migrant workers, military personnel, and foreign brides, 1.5 million people—or 3 percent of Korea’s population—are foreign-born. That’s expected to grow to 10 percent by 2030, which is on par with European societies today. This is a huge social change for a society that has been homogeneous in so many ways for hundreds and hundreds of years. [Koreans are taught that they come from a] thousand years of ‘pure’ ancestral bloodlines, common language, customs, and history.
[Following a bailout from the International Monetary Fund during the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, South Koreans] took it personally that the foreign West was intent on basically putting down this country that had become an economic miracle in such a short period of time.