South Korea is renown for having one of the world’s most resilient praying churches and global missions movement. We prepared to send a team to its capital city Seoul, hoping to plug Exodus Cry into the nation’s expansive network of intercession while spreading awareness about sex trafficking. The prevalence of prostitution in South Korea is severe, forming a thriving market for underground slavery, and we were determined to use Nefarious to expose it.
South Korea is a source, destination and transit country for victims of forced prostitution. A 2010 sex trade study by the Seoul National University, reported that there are 25 red-light districts but government ministries estimate these areas account for only 2 percent of South Korea’s enormous sex industry. The Korean sex trade produces an astronomical $21 billion dollar per year, or in other words, 4.1% of South Korea’s GDP. It is estimated that there are 500,000 to over one million Korean women who work in the sex industry and it becomes undeniable that this multi-billion dollar machine works hand in hand with traffickers. “By law, prostitution and sex trafficking are illegal but enforcement is clearly either ignored or terribly ineffective,” said team member Eric Sohn. “With explicitly open red light districts, run very much like in Amsterdam, it is clear that even the most blatant prostitution is accepted as a normal.”
In terms of public awareness, most Koreans are aware of the rampant culture of promiscuity and hyper sexualization yet there is a curtain of shame that is stubbornly draped around the topic. We screened Nefarious to churches, college campuses, US Army bases, and individuals in the Korean entertainment industry, resulting in an incredible response all across the board. Our manager of Policy and Public Affairs Laila Mickelwait also met with a governmental leader from Korean Ministry of Gender Equality and Family as well as anti-trafficking officials at the US Embassy to give them a copy of Nefarious and inform them of Exodus Cry’s work.
But the most important meetings and connections were with the praying churches. Many Korean believers have become distanced from the sex trafficking epidemic and the film showed how prostitutes are not just social taboos, but are in fact real women who each have a tragic history of abuse. Through our team’s presentations, people were awakened to how rampant sex trafficking is in Korea and how many Korean women are daily being exported into slavery. Since the tour, several churches committed to having regular prayer watches, targeting their nation’s sex industry. “I believe that Korea is one of the leading nations in the world regarding the prayer movement,” said Laila. “Korea has such a rich history of prayer and we were able to tap into that amazing foundation while introducing the importance of interceding for justice and ending sex trafficking. From what I experienced on this tour, it wasn’t really on anyone’s radar before, but now several prayer groups really understand and have a heart for this issue.”
After the tour was finished, Eric wrote his final thoughts on the importance of Nefarious in South Korea, “The tour was essential in that it was a real awakening for many Korean Christians. The film inspired vision for how God will use this country to fight such a great injustice.”