K-Pop Act Mistaken For Prostitutes At US Immigration

Filed Under: Travel

I’m basically a 12 year old Asian girl at heart (why else would I choose to fly the Hello Kitty Jet from Tokyo to Taipei and Taipei to Los Angeles?!), so I have an appreciation for K-Pop. Here’s a K-Pop story which gave me a good chuckle (for those of you not familiar with K-Pop, it stands for “Korean Pop”).

K-Pop act “Oh My Girl” was detained at LAX for 15 hours this past Wednesday after being mistaken for prostitutes.


The eight-person group, between the ages of 16 and 21, made immigration officers suspicious when they referred to themselves as “sisters,” and had sexy outfits in their bags. Via LA Weekly:

The management company said a misunderstanding took place after members of the typically large group of K-pop performers were asked what relationship they had to each other.

The answer of “sister” didn’t sit will with authorities, the firm stated. Federal officials thought the answer was strange because it was clear the women were not “blood related,” WM management said.

In Korean culture close friends often refer to each other as sister and brother.

On top of that, the performers had packed sexy outfits typical of their performances. Authorities paid “extra attention to the large quantity of items and outfits we had,” the firm stated.

Oops! They were detained for 15 hours and then sent back to Korea. Apparently they were sent back because there were issues with the type of visa they had for their visit, and not due to the officers’ other suspicions.

If you’d like to enjoy some of “Oh My Girl’s” work, here’s one of their first songs, with subtitles:

  1. It’s funny reading this as a Korean, only because I’ve never heard of them. Conspiracist me says they bribed US immigration to get the extra publicity, though logical me says their management company needs to actually start MANAGING. I mean, how does a management company get visas wrong?

    K-pop working conditions are insane. From what I’ve heard, these management companies force plastic surgery, crash diets, staying with the same label for years, and hours upon hours upon HOURS of exhausting practice to produce results, which may or may not be successful. The denial of sick leave is also a popular controversy. The K-pop you see in the news is the pretty K-pop, while behind the scenes are entire groups of performers being put in tiny dorms due to management contracts. The only way up for them is up, where they get more famous and THEN are granted star-studded lifestyle that they brag about by their companies. Of course, the other way is down… we don’t hear much about that route.

    Stardom, it’s an ugly thing.

  2. “K-Pop group rejected for attempting to enter the US on tourist visas with intention to work illegally,” just wouldn’t get enough attention, I guess.

  3. @betterbub
    According to Wikipedia, this is a very new group managed by a very new company (wm entertainment). And according to other news reports, the management company thought they didn’t need a performer visa because they came to the US for promotional activities and not performance. Seems to me like a honest mistake.

    Yes the kpop industry is hash but thats what I respect about kpop. Neither artists not management makes a lot of money (except for selected few that have reached stardom). Those that made it really earned it. A good friend of mine who is a kpop fan actually met some of thr kpop artists and said they were very down to eatth and approachable. Can’t say that for their US counterpart. The way I see it, its no secret that the work conditions are hash and its the artists choice to sign the contract…

    My beef is with the immigration. It really just takes a quick googling to realize that they are true kpop artists. And “sister”, “uncle” etc are commonly used in Korea as well as China to call non-blood related acquiatance. Maybe some cultural training helps

  4. Thanks for the insight betterbub.
    It reminds me a little about the hiring of flight hostesses by Chinese airlines. Although it is a totally different culture, once these young girls are hired they will do anything to keep their coveted jobs and are left to the mercy of inept management.
    I do think that the music is catchy.



  5. @MM9U, if it had been about the incorrect visa, they would have been detained for only a few hours until the next flight can take them back home. Calling your friends ‘sisters’ is the kind of thing that triggers the alarm of sex trafficking, and 15-hour detainment would allow immigration to question them about their travel legality. So yes, I don’t think this is a clickbait.

  6. I agree with @Mark comments! It’s all about look in Asia, the Airlines the K pop stuff! They support to serve!

    Ben, good to know you are 12 years old Asian girl in heart! Good for you sister!

  7. What happened was they were detained because they lied to customs officials about their visas. They lied about their purpose in the US until customs found their band equipment. The KPop stars then just gave up and went home. They weren’t held against their will rather they just weren’t allowed to enter the US.

  8. PR Stunt by the entertainment firm. I’m sure it got them heaps of quick free press in South Korea….and elsewhere.

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