Organ trafficking increasing

By Kim Tae-jong

“Everything has been screwed up. My last hope is to sell my kidney or liver. So please call me if you’re interested,” a message reads with a cell phone number attached on a website.

Such desperate pleas for human organ trafficking are often seen on the Internet, especially community sites of patients with liver or kidney failure, although human organ trafficking and related activities including posting such messages are illegal.

A 35-year-old man from Incheon, surnamed Lee, is one of those who decided to sell his kidney to repay part of his debts, after suffering from financial difficulties for years.

“My online shopping mall business went bankrupt three years ago, leaving me massive amounts of debt,” he said, adding the sale of his organ was the only way to earn a substantial sum of money at one time.

Recent statistics show there are increasing reports of such illegal messages on the Internet by people like Lee, which means human organ trafficking cases are steadily on the increase.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) and Rep. Lee Nak-yeon of the main opposition Democratic Party, there were 357 reports on human organ trafficking messages on the Web as of June, which already outnumbered last year’s 174.

Ironically, the number of criminals arrested on charges of organ trafficking has decreased sharply, recording only one as of June this year, down from three in 2010, nine in 2009, 18 in 2008 and 71 in 2007.

“That’s so disappointing,” Yang Jae-won, a secretary to the lawmaker, said. “It’s obvious that the police have no will to crack down on illegal organ traffickers.”

The police don’t recognize the seriousness of the issue as they don’t have any statistics or data regarding the crime, Yang said.

“After they came under fire for the lack of any outcome, they started to crack down on illegal activities and arrested 20 traffickers in the past two months, and asked us to take it into consideration. This just shows how lame they are on the issue of prevalent human organ trafficking.”

Under the current law, people can only donate their organs without receiving any financial compensation, and those who illegally remove or transplant other people’s organs or introduce such practices can face a prison sentence of over two years and those who illegally have their organs removed can face a prison sentence of less than 10 years.

Illegal organ trafficking is increasing as the rate of organ donation in the country is significantly lower than in Western nations.

According to the CDCP, there are over 20,000 patients in the country waiting for organs as of August, but there have been only 2,500 transplants this year.

“The number of people on the list has been on increase due to the lack of donors,” an official from CDCP said.

Consequently, there have been increasing demands for human organs for transplantation, which traffickers take advantage of. They advertise human organ trafficking via Internet instant messaging services, online forums and blogs.