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(LEAD) S. Korea downgraded to Tier 2 in annual U.S. human trafficking report

Diplomacy 10:00 July 20, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with South Korean foreign ministry's response in sixth para; CHANGES dateline)

WASHINGTON/SEOUL, July 19 (Yonhap) -- The U.S. State Department on Tuesday downgraded South Korea in its annual human trafficking report by a tier for the first time in two decades, citing insufficient efforts in tackling related crimes and protecting victims.

South Korea was placed on Tier 2 in the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report, down from the highest classification of Tier 1 the country had maintained since 2002, along with 132 other nations, including Japan, Norway and Switzerland.

The document classifies 188 nations into four tiers -- Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 2 "watchlist" and Tier 3 -- in terms of actions in preventing trafficking, protecting victims and prosecuting traffickers.

"The government initiated fewer prosecutions than in 2020, did not take steps to address longstanding concerns that government officials penalized foreign sex trafficking victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit, and sometimes deported victims without providing them adequate services or investigating traffickers," the report read.

It added, "Despite reports of the prevalence of labor trafficking among migrant workers in Korea, especially in Korea's fishing fleet, the government did not report identifying any foreign forced labor victims."

In response, South Korea's foreign ministry vowed more efforts to combat human trafficking in cooperation with other related government agencies.

Meanwhile, North Korea remained in the lowest category of Tier 3 for the 20th straight year, along with 21 other countries, including China and Russia.

"There was a government policy or pattern of human trafficking in prison camps as part of an established system of political repression, in labor training centers, in the mass mobilizations of adults and children, and through its imposition of forced labor conditions on DPRK overseas workers," the document said, referring to North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "The government used proceeds from state-sponsored forced labor to fund government functions, as well as other illicit activity."


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