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ABSTRACT. Why are there so many South Korean women in the US commercial sex industry? The answer is important in large part because South Korea is a relatively prosperous country; yet, it is often assumed that the primary factors propelling the cross-border movement of women in the global sex trade are poverty and a closely related phenomenon, inequality. This article argues, however, that poverty and inequality are not always primary factors determining the cross border movement of women in the global sex trade. Instead, through a first-of-its-kind survey of Korean women involved in the US commercial sex industry, as well as through extensive interviews with service providers and law enforcement officials, and intensive analysis of secondary sources, I conclude that, while poverty and inequality still matter, other factors can be even more important. In the case of South Korea, these other factors include specific public policy choices, historical connections between South Korea and the US, larger patterns of cross-border migration (especially the establishment of ethnic enclaves), and cultural norms and practices. My research also highlights the importance of individual agency. These conclusions compel us to think differently about the causes and dynamics of cross-border sexual exploitation. pp. 9–31

Keywords: migration; South Korea; US commercial sex industry; global sex trade; human trafficking; cross-border sexual exploitation

How to cite: Lim, Timothy C (2014),  "Migrant Korean Women in the US Commercial Sex Industry: An Examination of the Causes and Dynamics of Cross-Border Sexual Exploitation," Journal of Research in Gender Studies 4(1): 9–31.

TIMOTHY C. LIM
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California State University, Los Angeles, United States of America

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