K-pop band sent home from LAX not sex worker suspects, just lacked work visas: report

Immigration official quoted as denying claim by agent for South Korean girl band Oh My Girl that they were apparently detained as suspected sex workers, instead saying they lacked performance visas for show

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 December, 2015, 10:51am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 December, 2015, 12:47pm

Members of a K-pop girl band detained at the Los Angeles airport and sent back to South Korea reportedly lacked the proper work visas.

The agency that represents the band Oh My Girl, WM Entertainment, said US immigration authorities suspected they might be sex workers after the eight performers were held at the Los Angeles airport for 15 hours on December 9.

That was not true, an official with the US Customs and Border Patrol was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday.

Band members were seeking to enter under a programme that allows South Koreans to travel in the United States for up to 90 days without a visa, the official said. But when customs agents went through their luggage and found costumes and props it was clear that they had arrived to perform.

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Well this is awkward - Korean girl band Oh My Girl detained for 15 hours at Los Angeles airport after being mistaken for sex workers

Posted by South China Morning Post SCMP on Friday, 11 December 2015

The US agents denied the young women entry because they lacked the required performance visa.

“We were doing what we do every day,” the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Times. “We send people back all the time.”

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WM Entertainment said in South Korea that US immigration authorities “seem to have mistaken them as sex workers” after going through their luggage, “probably because of their young age”.

The band was booked to perform at a gala event in Los Angeles on Saturday, the agency said. It also hinted that there might have been an issue with the type of visa the band members were holding.

Oh My Girl was formed in March and released its debut single in April.

South Korea's K-pop scene, which has been exported with enormous success, is dominated by girl and boy bands whose members are sometimes as young as 13 or 14 years old.