The chance to become a K-pop star is an offer that’s hard to pass for millions of Korean pop culture fans around the world. However, it is this dream that led seven Brazilian women into being sexually trafficked in South Korea in July.
The women, all in their 20s and 30s, were allegedly approached by a still unidentified man on social media who offered them free flights to South Korea, CNN reported. They were told that they could become famous models or K-pop stars so they traveled about 17,600 km away from home to try their luck. It didn’t take long for things to take an ugly turn.
Upon arriving in South Korea, their passports were immediately taken away by the men who they corresponded with. Their return flights were also canceled. According to police reports, the men allegedly told the women that they need to work as prostitutes until they pay off their airfare. The victims were locked in houses in Ilsan and Paju, cities north of Seoul, and sold to brothels for 2 million won ( $1,650 US) each shortly after.
South Korean police were first alerted about the situation in August, when a woman called the Brazilian embassy in South Korea asking for help. Officers first raided a massage parlour in Ilsan where they rescued three of the Brazilian women. Days later, they rescued four more from the house in Paju.
Police said the women seemed “traumatised.” Authorities have arrested five suspects who were allegedly involved in the crime but investigations continue to see if anyone else was involved.
“We think that there could be more people involved in the operation and possibly someone above who was organising,” said an official.
According to The Korea Times, the victims are now at a shelter for migrant women.
K-pop is an industry worth $4.7 billion and Brazilians are big fans. The boy band BTS performed for around 40,000 people when they visited the country in May.