SEX TOUR BUSTED
They came to Cebu to take a break and have fun. But it was the kind of enjoyment that ran afoul with the law, landing them all in jail.
The supposed vacation was cut short when the nine Korean tourists were arrested by National Bureau of Investigation in Central Visayas (NBI-7) agents for allegedly engaging in sexual relations with young Cebuanas aged 19 to 21 years old who work for a Korean-run escort service group.
The escort service was provided by a group of three Koreans and their Filipina cohort who operated via the internet the sex tour packages, a human trafficking offense in the Philippines, for a fee of P250,000 per tourist.
The arrested Korean tourists aged between 40 to 50 years old — Jongnam Ham, Munsu Lee, Joontae Kim, Dongkil Kim, Jong In Han, Hosik Park, Jae Gyu Kim, Namgyun Shin and Byeonghae Park — were caught sleeping with their respective Cebuana escorts in a beachfront hotel in Barangay Marigondon, Lapu-Lapu City, past 1 a.m. on Friday.
They did not resist arrest.
“The suspects are part of what we called sex tourism which prey on Cebuanas. We received an information about their operations so we hatched a plan to arrest them,” said NBI-7 special investigator Arnel Pura in an interview on Saturday.
Charges will be filed against the suspects for violating Section 11 of Republic Act 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012, which prohibits anyone from “engaging the services of a trafficked person.” The offense is bailable.
Three other Korean nationals only identified as Choi, Andy and Kim as well as their local contact Maribeth Bontog are also facing qualified trafficking charges for recruiting the victims. The four, however, remain at large.
The nine arrested suspects refused to give any statement when they were presented to the media yesterday afternoon.
They declined to speak and instead hid their faces using their hands and shirts.
Sought for comment, South Korea Consul General in Cebu Sung Yong Oh said they will provide the suspects with whatever support they will need.
“Our consulate was informed of these concern by the NBI and has been extending consular support to Korean nationals. We also cooperate with the NBI in the investigation,” he said in a text message to Cebu Daily News yesterday.
The operation that resulted in the arrest of the nine Koreans was conducted in coordination with the Cebu Provincial Women’s Commission (PWC) headed by Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale.
“I’m happy that this kind of activity got busted. Like illegal drugs, we might not be able to eradicate it (sex tourism) but at least we are doing something to stop it,” Magpale told CDN over the phone.
Magpale said that based on the information they received, each of the suspects availed of a travel package worth P250,000 that already included transportation and accommodation fees as well as a local sex partner.
“I really pity the women (who were enticed to have sex with the Korean tourists),” the vice governor said.
Magpale said they will help in the aftercare of the rescued victims as well as help in the prosecution of the suspects if necessary.
“There will be no letup in our campaign against sex tourism. I am not saying that the problem has gone worse, but I am happy that the public’s awareness on the issue is there,” she said.
After the NBI-7 got wind of the sex tour operation, it immediately coordinated with Magpale who sent PWC’s Jedidah Hife, a former NBI agent, to assist in the operation.
The victims, who are residents of the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu, were enticed to take part in the sex tour as they were each paid P2,000 per day for the three days that they were supposed to “service” the tourist assigned to them, according to Pura.
He said they got an information that Korean nationals actively promoted and advertised these Cebu-based sex tourism tours on the internet to men in Korea.
A certain Choi serves as the leader of the group.
“There’s actually a private website which is exclusive for Koreans. The website serves as the platform from which the transactions are being carried out such as payments, plane tickets, accommodation, sites to be visited and other related concerns,” Pura said.
The package, he said, includes providing Filipina partners who are selected by the tourist from a photo gallery in the website.
Based on their investigation, the group has a local contact identified as Maribeth Macapagal Bontog who recruits and provides women for a fee.
Last March 1, Pura said they were informed by an asset that Korean tourists arrived at the Mactan Cebu International Airport and were met by Korean guides, identified only as Andy and Kim.
The Koreans proceeded to a beachfront hotel in Barangay Marigondon where they met their local female partners.
The NBI agents conducted surveillance operations at the place where the suspects stayed.
Pura said they coordinated with the management of the hotel and eventually managed to talk to the
“When we confirmed that the victims were really enticed to have sex with the Koreans, we arrested the suspects because we already had a basis to do so,” he explained.
Of the nine trafficked women, two had gone home when the operation was conducted. The NBI-7, however, hoped the two women will still testify against the suspects.
The seven rescued women were later set free. “They are no longer minors so we allowed them to go home. They promised to come back during the filing of the charges against the suspects,” Pura said.
He said the suspects are now held at the NBI-7 detention facility and would be formally charged before the Cebu Regional Trial Court on Monday.
Pura said the accused have the right to post bail, but NBI-7 also intends to ask the Bureau of Immigration to issue a hold departure order against the nine tourists while the charges against them are still to be resolved by the court.
If found guilty, each of the nine Koreans faces a prison term of six to 12 years.
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