January 26, 2022

South Korea’s Constant Struggle With Digital Sex Crimes

By Jason Bartlett

Reports of major digital sex crimes are once again sweeping through South Korean media as the Seoul Central District Court recently sentenced a South Korean national to 10 years in prison for distributing and selling sexually explicit content exploiting male children and adolescents.

South Korea has a long history of battling sexual violence and digital sex crimes. The murder of a young South Korean woman in the restroom of a Seoul subway station in 2016 ignited countrywide debate over sexism and gender conflict, ushering in calls for the country’s own #MeToo movement. According to Human Rights Watch, total prosecutions of sex crimes in South Korea involving “spycam” victims rose from 4 percent of sex crimes cases in 2008 to 20 percent in 2017. Spycams, or molka in Korean, are hidden cameras, typically stationed in areas of rest or comfort such as hospital rooms, hotels, and public bathrooms, which secretly take images and videos of unsuspected victims, often for distribution and purchase online.

Banning pornography websites will only help diversify the methods by which illicit actors create new ways to access explicit material through unregulated mediums.

Two of the most notorious sex crime cases in South Korea – Welcome to Video (W2V) and the Nth Room – heavily relied on digital tools. Both previously operated by South Korean nationals, the former was the largest known child pornography website by volume of content, and the latter sold thousands of videos containing young women and children coerced into dehumanizing sexual acts and forced self-mutilation. Prior to joint governmental operations involving the United States, South Korea, and other countries to seize these websites, both platforms received substantial amounts of Bitcoin transactions signifying a financial goal to exploiting these victims.

Despite the successful seizure and shutdown of both W2V and the original Nth Room case-related networks, the number of reported digital sex crimes continue to rise in South Korea. Deemed the “Male Nth Room,” the recent case of a South Korean national exploiting young male children and adolescents online signals the need for greater government-funded research into the origins of this endemic. Starting in December 2011, the South Korean defendant, Kim Young-jun, allegedly masqueraded online as a woman to coerce 79 young men and adolescents into sending explicit photos and videos, which he later distributed and sold through the internet. On January 25, 2022, the Seoul Central District Court sentenced Kim to 10 years in prison and issued a 14.8 million won (roughly $12,360) fine for violating the Act on the Protection of Children and Youth Against Sex Offenders. However, Seoul still faces a growing digital sex crime endemic that endangers both young women and men.

Read the full article from The Diplomat.

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