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K-pop group was turned away at LAX for lying about reason for visiting U.S., official says

The K-pop group that was turned away at LAX this week was denied entry because the members lied about the purpose of their trip, not because they were mistaken for sex workers as the performers have claimed, a government official said Saturday.

An official with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, said the eight-member girl band lied to customs officials and said they were traveling to the U.S. as tourists, rather than for work.

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FOR THE RECORD
Dec. 14, 2:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this article misidentified U.S. Customs and Border Protection as U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
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Officials denied them entry when it became clear from the contents of their luggage that they were here to perform but did not have the required P1 performance visa.

The group was attempting to enter the U.S. under the visa waiver program, which allows South Korean travelers into the country for up to 90 days without a visa.

"We were doing what we do every day," the official said. "We send people back all the time."

The South Korean management company of the band Oh My Girl said in a statement this week that the group had been turned away because they were mistaken for "working women." The company, WM Entertainment, claimed they "did not need a performance visa" because they were participating in a promotional event rather than holding a solo concert.

The customs official also disputed that the band and accompanying staff members were "detained" for more than 15 hours at the airport. The group was put on the first flight back to Korea operated by the same airline they arrived on, as is the policy, which was 15 hours later, the official said.

The entertainment company had said in its statement that it was consulting attorneys in the United States about the group's lengthy detention.

victoria.kim@latimes.com

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