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Sex Workers Filling Albuquerque Jail

Posted September. 25, 2006 07:04,   


When I heard the rumor by chance that young Korean women are held in custody in Albuquerque, what I thought of at first was “Where is Albuquerque?” However, the curiosity why Korean women are locked up in a small city unknown to us in New Mexico was soon satisfied.

“Operation Cold Comport,” which was supposed to crack down on Korean sex trade shops, were launched on August 15 by 1,000 armed policemen in eastern cities including Washington D.C. and New York. It is said that during the operation, arrested women were sent into custody. Among 70 Korean women arrested, 15 out of 19 women who failed to be released on bail are in custody.

Albuquerque is a city of 500,000, which is built in the middle of a vast wilderness in New Mexico. The Detention and Correction Center that I visited on September 18 was in the middle of its downtown area unlike my imagination. However, security and guard were heavy, just like other correctional facilities. On the fourth floor of the building, seemingly the tallest one in the city, were Korean women in custody.

“With my hands tied and shackled, I was taken here by flight for 23 hours. They didn’t care even when I said I had a hygienic emergency.”

Korean women who came out to a hall after every 3-4 were locked up in a room, poured out complaints and pleas. There were so many complaints that Kwon Tae-myun, consulate general in Washington D.C. couldn’t even answer.

“Out of the blue, policemen with guns raided us and we were dragged out without wearing proper clothes. We were locked up in some kind of a hotel for a week and were sent here. We couldn’t bring anything. They took our money.”

They had similar stories about how they came here. Then why did they come to this faraway country and end up in the sex trade business?

“It is hard to make money when you are older than 30 in Korea. But, I heard that Asian women’s age is hard to recognize in the U.S. and that one can earn 20,000-30,000 dollars easily.”

Mrs. A, 35, took a flight to Mexico eight months ago after listening to one of her acquaintances. She was guided to Tijuana, Mexico which borders San Diego in California and after staying at a tourist home for a couple of days, she crossed the border hidden in a car with a back seat removed. It cost her $10,000 to cross the border. There were a lot of ethnic Korean women who came from Yongbyon, China at the tourist home.

sechepa@donga.com srkim@donga.com