Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe

Testimony :: General Leon J. LaPorte
Commander - United States Forces Korea


Mr. Chairmen and the distinguished members of the committee and commission, I am honored for the opportunity to appear before you as Commander, United Nations Command; Commander, Republic of Korea-United States Combined Forces Command; and Commander, United States Forces Korea.

I am also grateful for yet another opportunity to express to you my pride in leading some of the very best citizens in the United States today. These young men and women, volunteers all, have each chosen a difficult life that has taken them far from home to serve their nation under often difficult conditions. Ninety-two per cent of United States Forces Korea’s service members have left their families behind to help secure the enduring liberty of the Republic of Korea, and they continue to build on the foundation established by previous generations of Americans for a peaceful and prosperous region. The overwhelming majority of them embody the very best attributes of our national character, and I am continually impressed by their sacrifices.

In accordance with the Deputy Secretary of Defense’s 30 January 2004 memorandum regarding combating trafficking in persons in the Department of Defense, United States Forces Korea has similarly adopted a “Zero Tolerance” approach to human trafficking and vigorously prosecutes any illegal activity on the part of the more than 33,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and 5,000 Department of Defense civilians and contract employees currently serving in Korea.

We acknowledge the terrible physical and psychological toll exacted on the victims of prostitution and human trafficking, as well as the corrosive consequences these activities may produce by creating tensions in our unique alliance with the Republic of Korea, financing other criminal enterprises or terrorism, and affecting the combat readiness, good discipline and spiritual fitness of our service members.

The Command has developed a complementary four-pronged strategy that focuses on awareness, identification, reduction, and continued interaction with the government of the Republic of Korea and its law enforcement agencies. Our desired end state working with our host nation partners is the elimination of prostitution and its links to human trafficking in the Korean entertainment districts adjacent to U.S. military installations in Korea.

Our first efforts have been to raise the level of awareness throughout this Command. United States Forces Korea has developed a prostitution and human trafficking core curriculum for use by the Command’s Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine elements. Within the very first week of in-processing to the Korean Peninsula, newly assigned military personnel, to include those arriving for temporary duty, are presented prostitution and human trafficking awareness training as part of the core training curriculum during their “Newcomer’s Orientation” briefing. This initial instruction is not limited to those who arrive only by plane, as U.S. Navy Ships arriving in Korea are also met by Naval Criminal Investigative Service Agents at the pier and provided with information on the Command’s policies and updated lists of current off-limits areas.

Additionally, prostitution and human trafficking awareness training is presented during other collective and leadership training opportunities, such as the Eighth U.S. Army’s Company Commanders’ and First Sergeants’ Courses, Senior Leaders Courses, and Primary Leadership Development Courses, and during it’s “New Horizons’ Day;” a semi-annual day-long stand-down of the entire Eighth U.S. Army used to conduct training focused on prostitution and human trafficking, sexual harassment and sexual assault, cultural awareness, values and safety. The Command’s Navy, Air Force, and Marine elements have included prostitution and human trafficking into their training programs.

The Command has also established a Prostitution and Human Trafficking Working Group, chaired by a General Officer, which convenes quarterly to review policies and procedures regarding these two issues. This group has overseen the promulgation of numerous changes to existing United States Forces Korea regulations related to these issues, as well as the distribution of policy initiatives, training packages and identification procedures designed to further emphasize the importance of honorable conduct, morality, and discipline by all service members, Department of Defense civilians, contractor personnel, and family members.

Additionally, we have ensured the widespread dissemination of the Command’s Zero Tolerance message through installation newspapers and by using other media as well. Self-produced public service announcements are regularly broadcast on the Armed Forces Network Korea’s radio and television channels, in addition to a public service announcement produced by the “Polaris Project,” a Washington, D.C. based non-profit anti-human trafficking organization. The Eighth U.S. Army Intranet, the backbone of all United States Forces Korea’s computer systems, also includes links to up-to-date information such as listings of current off-limits areas and changes to command policy.

It is important to note that the Armed Forces Network Korea is also seen and heard by many beyond the scope of the Command. These broadcasts allow Korean citizens outside the U.S. military communities to have some understanding of both how they can assist us in these efforts, as well as how seriously we take these issues.

Another of the Command’s priorities is to embrace a number of quality-of-life initiatives that seek to make on-base military life a more desirable experience, and attempt to diminish the seductive appeal of many of the less wholesome off-duty pursuits. Unit leaders of all ranks have been encouraged to seek alternative activities for their service members and create new ideas with respect to off-duty services and activities. These initiatives currently have resulted in expanded evening and weekend education programs, free internet access for on-line education and e-university programs, installation-sponsored band concerts, late-night sports leagues and tournaments, expanded chaplains’ activities, and increased operating hours for athletic and dining facilities, as well as more diverse United Service Organization and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sponsored tours.

One specific activity has our service members positively engaged in improving community relations with our Korean hosts. The “Good Neighbor Program,” implemented in 2003 at all command levels, has thousands of service members and their families engaged in volunteer actions in Korean communities across the peninsula. Activities such as English-language tutoring, cooperative humanitarian and conservation projects, adopt-a-school, orphanage sponsorship, and participation in local Korean-American Friendship Associations provide our service members with alternatives on which to build mutual understanding and cultural appreciation. The Good Neighbor Program is a significant Command initiative aimed at enriching our service members’ appreciation of Korean culture and improving our hosts’ perception of our country.

The Command is continuously seeking to better identify those venues where U.S. military personnel might be patronizing businesses that support prostitution or human trafficking. U.S. Military Police and Security Forces have increased their undercover operations to identify those establishments that we suspect of prostitution or human trafficking activities. If an establishment is suspected of violating Department of Defense and United States Forces Korea policies, the local U.S. military area commander places it off-limits to all U.S. service members, Department of Defense civilian and contract employees, and family members. This is accomplished through a public process by a local Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board operating under the auspices of the Status of Forces Agreement. These independent bodies are empowered to ensure that only those businesses operating legal and safe establishments will benefit from the patronage and commerce of United States Forces Korea personnel.

We now have a common standard in use throughout the peninsula that identifies the indicators of prostitution and human trafficking activities for U.S. military leaders, law enforcement authorities, and individual service members with the publication of the United States Forces Korea Provost Marshal’s “Prostitution and Human Trafficking Identification Guidebook.” This reference is distributed to subordinate units within the Command and establishes our baseline standards that ensure all Korean businesses located in the vicinity of U.S. military installations are closely monitored in accordance with specific criteria.

The Command has also established and regularly advertises a 24-hour USFK telephone “hotline” for anyone to report suspected prostitution and human trafficking activities. Information received on this hotline is promptly directed to both the local U.S. military law enforcement authorities and area commanders for investigation and action.

In spite of all these efforts, we know that there are still some U.S. service members, Department of Defense civilians and contractor personnel who may continue to contact prostitutes and, thereby, be construed as supporting human trafficking. With this challenge in mind, this Command continues its efforts to identify and reduce any instances of these illegal activities by a combination of deliberate command presence coupled with aggressive law enforcement and investigative activities.

U.S. military area and unit commanders continue to employ Town, Shore and Courtesy Patrols to provide a visible official presence in the entertainment districts near U.S. military installations. The use of unarmed Courtesy Patrols has proven to be a useful tool for commanders to both ensure military service members frequenting establishments in these areas adhere to service standards for conduct and appearance, and to make certain all of our personnel have a safe environment during their off-duty hours. The units employing Town, Shore, and Courtesy Patrols have incorporated the “Prostitution and Human Trafficking Identification Guidebook” to ensure all patrol members are trained in the duties and responsibilities related to this issue. These patrols are empowered to identify to commanders and appropriate Korean authorities those establishments that might pose a force-protection, health, or criminal threat to our troops, as well as areas where prostitution or human trafficking is suspected of occurring.

Uniformed U.S. Military Police and Security Forces work in concert with Korean National Police to ensure the safety of our service members in selected areas outside of our U.S. military installations. Additionally, undercover operations are being conducted by U.S. military law enforcement agencies in establishments suspected of prostitution and human trafficking. These investigations, accomplished by highly-trained personnel, serve a law enforcement function as well as a deterrent role, as word quickly spreads of their existence and the seriousness of our multiple efforts.

Since January 2003, within Area I of South Korea alone, the location of the greatest number of allegations against U.S. personnel, five service members have received disciplinary action for solicitation of prostitution. As part of our aggressive on-going efforts to curb prostitution and human trafficking in this area, our increased law-enforcement efforts have also resulted in the prosecution of 398 servicemen for related offenses, such as curfew violation and trespassing in posted off-limits locations. These service members were disciplined using non-judicial punishment, adverse administrative action, or trial by courts-martial for violating the Command’s policies and regulations.

These numbers indicate the extent to which this Command is vigorously addressing and enforcing policies and regulations implemented to attack the issues of prostitution and human trafficking in the entertainment districts adjacent to U.S. military installations. Additionally, we are continuously evaluating and updating our list of off-limits business establishments based on information we receive that indicates these businesses are unsafe or are associated with illegal activities. Currently, this list numbers over 600 bars, restaurants and clubs, and even includes entire sections of towns or cities that are forbidden to United States Forces Korea personnel across the peninsula.

Perhaps the most important partner in the Command’s combined efforts has been the Republic of Korea Government, and its diplomatic corps and law enforcement agencies to help to address the worldwide problem of human trafficking. The close cooperation between the U.S. Embassy Seoul and the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has already resulted in refined visa policies that are targeted at closing loopholes that have been exploited by human traffickers in the past. A case in point is the Republic of Korea Government’s most recent initiative to cease issuing “E-6 Entertainment Visas” to dancers who intend to work in entertainment establishments near U.S. military installations.

U.S. Military Police and Korean National Police forces conduct combined patrols, and, as part of their duties, assess and report indicators of prostitution or human trafficking in entertainment districts near U.S. military installations. Additionally, monthly meetings between the U.S. Forces Korea Provost Marshal’s office and the Korean National Police have included prostitution and human trafficking among the priorities that had previously focused primarily on force protection and collaborative efforts to solve criminal cases of mutual interest.

United States Forces Korea continues to be encouraged by our host nation’s efforts to engage the problems of prostitution and human trafficking. The “Prevention of Prostitution Act” of 1995 marked a significant step forward, and will be enhanced when the two newest statutes, enacted on 22 March 2004, are scheduled to go into effect on 23 September 2004. The “Act on Prevention of Sex Trade and Protection of Victims Thereof” and the “Act on Punishment of Facilitating in Sex Trade and Other Associated Acts” will greatly help the Republic of Korea’s efforts to seriously confront the problems of an institutional sex-trade and to combat prostitution and human trafficking.

Independently, the Korean National Police have conducted a focused investigation of illegal prostitution, both in establishments surrounding U.S. military installations and nation-wide across the Republic of Korea. During the course of its human rights protection investigations, the Korean National Police have arrested 660 business owners, and rescued 209 Koreans and foreign nationals from confinement or slavery. The Korean Ministry of Justice is also considering a program offering rewards of over $17,000 dollars for information leading to the arrest of sex slave traders. This new program will even allow information obtained by anonymous informers to be used as evidence in a court of law.

The Korean National Police have also recently established a Women and Juvenile Division within its Crime Prevention Bureau to focus on prostitution and human trafficking as it relates to the Korean sex industry. The Women and Juvenile Division has established a multi-lingual hot-line to help women and children who may be victims of human traffickers.

The outstanding support United States Forces Korea has received from our host nation has been indicative of its serious cooperation with us on these issues at every level. Recognizing that the problems of prostitution and human trafficking are not only limited to the immediate vicinity of U.S. military installations, the Republic of Korea has recently established an independent task force that seeks to close down all of the nation’s brothels and institutionalized red-light districts by 2007.

The U.S. Department of Defense Inspector General has conducted three on-site visits to Korea and was particularly encouraged by the Command’s enhanced “core values” training, our aggressive efforts to place establishments off-limits that are even suspected of illegal activities, and our success in obtaining the cooperation of Korean authorities to combat prostitution and human trafficking.

Internally, the United States Forces Korea Inspector General serves as an independent mechanism to evaluate the degree of our success in these various programs and policies. Charged with conducting numerous inspections, audits and surveys, it is able to report on the efficacy of our strategies in administering a zero tolerance approach to prostitution and human trafficking. Recommendations from the Inspector General’s activities have already resulted in the formation of the Command’s Prostitution and Human Trafficking Working Group, the development of the Prostitution and Human Trafficking core training curriculum, changes to the Command’s policies and regulations, and an increased awareness of these issues by all United States Forces Korea personnel.

We are not finished in our efforts; this is an on-going concern and one that this Command takes very seriously. We fully understand the corrosive effects that prostitution and human trafficking have on the moral fabric of both our societies, and we intend to continue combating this corrosive effect until it is eradicated.

I want to close by reminding you of the outstanding work that your U.S. forces are engaged in throughout the Korean Peninsula each and every day, 24-hours a day. You have every reason to be proud of the service of your Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, and Department of Defense civilians and contractor personnel in Korea who serve this nation honorably under difficult circumstances. Their remarkable professionalism and dedication to this nation’s principles are a reflection of the strength of our society. It is my honor to serve with them and to represent them here today.