In March of 2011, Mike Kim and Katherine Chou—two individuals involved in ending modern day slavery—discussed “China’s Underground Railroad” at Asia Society Washington. Kim and Chou shed light on the crisis of human trafficking and its spread to the United States. Kim, author, and founder of Crossing Borders, an organization helping North Korean refugees. During the talk, he recounted his journey to assist two North Korean women in their escape to sanctuary. He described the horror of women being sold and forced into prostitution and marriage after being smuggled to China. Due to China’s deportation of North Korean refugees, underground railroads and safe houses are used to escape. Kim’s organization helps individuals with these struggles, but is still faced with funding issues to help provide nourishment and proper medical attention.

Katherine Chou, President and co-founder of Polaris Project, followed up with stories even closer to home. The illegal trade in nearby massage parlors and sex trafficking in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, is what first piqued her interest in the issue. She explained that there are about 5,000 similar massage parlors in the U.S. filled with illegitimate jobs for women being forced into prostitution.

Chou said, “It is this market that is not only driving victims of human trafficking from North Korea, but is global and can be found here in the United States.”