South Korea’s Entertainment Visas Pose Risk of Human Trafficking: Policy Forum

Posted: 
02/26/16
Themes: 
Counter-Trafficking

Republic of Korea - An IOM co-hosted policy forum in Seoul on Tuesday (23/2) addressed the lack of legal protection for entertainment visa (E-6) holders in the Republic of Korea.

The event brought together leading Korean human rights lawyers and activists to call for improvements to the current system and to discuss the findings of a fact-finding mission to Japan in September 2015, where a similar entertainment visa exists.

South Korea and Japan both introduced the entertainment visa to admit foreign nationals pursuing careers in art, music, literature, sports, and performance related activities. However, the visa has often been abused and used to bring in women, particularly from the Philippines, to work in the sex industry.

In South Korea, the E-6-2 visa, one of the three types of E-6 visa, is the most abused, with many holders of the visa ending up as trafficked sex workers.

According to a nationwide survey by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in 2014, 27.1 percent of E-6-2 visa holders working in night clubs were coerced to prostitution, while over 70 percent were required to sell drinks on commission to customers.

Japan experienced the same problems as South Korea until it strengthened the monitoring of visa issuance for foreign entertainers in March 2005. As a result, the number of entertainment visa holders from the Philippines decreased drastically, which caught the attention of the Korean fact-finding team.

“Similar trends reported by IOM in Canada, Switzerland, Cyprus and Lebanon suggest that governments need to recognize abuse of entertainment visas and their potential to result in human trafficking,” said IOM Seoul Head of Office Miah Park.

“Along with strengthening the monitoring of E-6 visa issuance, the government should commit to identifying current victims and protecting them,” she added.

The findings of the forum will be reflected in a call for revision of the present law, which will be submitted after South Korea’s parliamentary elections in April 2016.

For further information, please contact Eunjin Jeong, at IOM Seoul Tel. +82 70 4820 2324, Email: ejeong@iom.int or Boram Jang, Tel: +82 70 4820 2752, Email: bjang@iom.int

Experts discuss abuses of South Korea's E-6 entertainment visa. (Photo: IOM)