The first Students Against Slavery Day featured a viewing of executive director Eddie Byun’s documentary, “Save My Seoul,” followed by a Q&A


Azusa Pacific held the first Students Against Slavery Day on Wednesday to raise awareness of human trafficking. The day featured events hosted by Chapel Services, the Office of Corporate Worship, Title IX and APU Free the Captives. Representatives from Biola University and Cal Baptist University were also invited to participate.

Among the events featured was a film screening of “Save My Seoul,” an investigative documentary on the brutal realities of sex trafficking in South Korea. The movie was directed by Jason Lee, who worked alongside his brother, Edward Lee, in the making of the film. 

Executive producer Eddie Byun was also featured in the documentary and hosted a question and answer segment after the viewing.

Byun, who had spoken earlier in chapel regarding his experiences making the film, reiterated the importance of fighting human trafficking.

“I faced a lot of opposition with government, with churches, with society, regular people and with elders — I mean, it was just everywhere, but also with the pimps and traffickers” Byun said. “Once they figured out our real motive, things got very hostile … and increasingly dangerous for myself and my family.”

Byun said the animosity was so bad that he and his family moved out of South Korea for their safety following the release of the film.

Trafficked survivors also feared for their lives in the making of the film. According to Byun, although several women wanted to share their stories, most were terrified to be on film.

“We said, ‘We’ll change your voice, we’ll blur your eyes, we’ll blur your hands,’ but they said, ‘No, my trafficker’s going to recognize my hands. My trafficker’s going to recognize my knees,’” Byun said. “That’s how scared they were.”

Although the phrase “human trafficking” can refer to a variety of crimes, Students Against Slavery Day was specifically focused on female sex trafficking and its negative impacts on victims’ lives.

The documentary refers to South Korean prostitution and sex trafficking as “an open secret.” Trafficking experts and survivors testify in the film that although the public knows these crimes are being committed, most of them are either complacent or actively using these services. 

According to the film, one out of two men in South Korea at the time of the film admitted to using sex services at some point in their lives, with the most active group being men between the ages of 30-40. 

In one scene, the Lee brothers seek police guidance, inquiring what authorities were doing about the issue. The men were turned away multiple times before receiving an answer. The policeman told the Lee brothers, “It is technically illegal, but man is above the law.” When the two left, the policeman walked them out and repeated the sentiment, telling the brothers, “Go have fun.”

The documentarians interviewed experts, average men, perpetrators and survivors. While experts and survivors agreed that sex trafficking was an abuse of human rights, average men aligned their beliefs more closely to the pimps, who said repeatedly, “There are no victims.”

According to the men, prostitutes could walk away from the profession at any time and take their money with them. They insisted the sex workers were “lazy,” and were “making money the easy way.” However, the women had different stories.

Each sex trafficking survivor had their faces blurred so they would not be recognized. One survivor cried as she spoke about her experience getting in debt to her pimp. This survivor affirmed statements made by advocacy experts who said that women in sex trade are often put in debt by their pimps who convince the victims early on that they are a means of support for them. 

In the end, the prostitutes do not make money, but continue to pay back their pimp for years. Although the pimps claim they can leave at any time and take the money with them, those who try are often beaten or killed. One survivor cried as she recounted a story of when she tried to run away and was beaten with a baseball bat. 

Representatives from Title IX were available at a table for anyone who was triggered by the scenes. Cries were heard from the audience twice after particularly emotional scenes. 

Representatives from APU Free the Captives and ZOE International were also present. The two groups stood behind tables to provide students with information to be more involved in the fight against human trafficking.

Senior social work major Gaby Carranza is an intern for ZOE International. Carranza believes sex trafficking is a problem that needs to be solved for the betterment of humankind.

“This issue is a fast-growing epidemic, not only worldwide but in our backyard … Being a voice for those whose voices were taken from them is so important to me,” Carranza said. “Awareness doesn’t stop the issue, but it’s the beginning step … Hopefully people will choose to step forward and go in the preventative part to get involved and prevent this issue from growing.”

Event attendees spoke after the Q&A to discuss what could be done to solve the issue. Although many said they did not feel as though their individual actions would make a drastic change, some said they were committed to try.

Senior biology major Livvy Peterson wants to make a change, despite her busy schedule. 

“I appreciate being aware of the signs if I ever encounter someone, knowing how to treat them and what I can do to help them if they’re seeking that,” Peterson said.