The Foreign Ministry on Sunday dispatched the special ambassador for overseas Koreans and consular affairs, Moon Ha-yong, to Australia after reports that there are more than 1,000 Korean sex workers there.
The Korean Embassy in Canberra and Consulate General in Sydney asked Seoul to act based on the reports that foreigners account recently for about 25 percent of the 23,000 sex workers in Australia and some 16.9 percent of them are Koreans.
The ministry believes that some are working illegally in the sex industry while on working holiday visas. Some 35,000 young Koreans are staying in Australia under the working holiday visa program between Australia and Korea which allows travelers to work a cerain number of hours while studying or traveling.
"The local press has continuously raised the problem of Korean prostitutes in Australia, and now there are more than 1,000 of them," a senior Korean government official said. "It seems likely that criminal organizations are systematically sending young women to Australia or recruiting them locally by taking advantage of the working holiday visas."
Moon is expected to meet a senior Australian Foreign Ministry official and high-ranking police officers to discuss ways to prevent human trafficking and prostitution involving Korean women.
He will make sure that the government takes tough measures, including cancelling the passports of women involved in prostitution there.
Similar cases are being reported from Canada, Japan and New Zealand, with which Korea also has work-holiday visa agreements. Some 7,200 young Koreans are staying in Japan, 4,020 in Canada, and 1,800 in New Zealand on these programs.
The government believes some women apply for the visa but then work in massage parlors and other sex businesses.
The government official said since Korea enacted a special law to eradicate prostitution in 2004, an increasing number of prostitutes have gone abroad. One report said as many as 5,000 Korean women are working as prostitutes in the U.S. alone.