“Cyber ​​Hell” just scratches the surface of South Korea’s sex crime crisis

The ongoing sex crime crisis in South Korea is the focus of a gripping new Netflix documentary –Cyber ​​Hell: Exposing an Internet Horror.

The latest program shows only the tip of the iceberg of sex crimes in the Asian country, which stem from “rooted gender inequality” and a rise in gender-based violence, said Boram Jang, East Asia researcher at Amnesty International news week.

“According to the Korean Institute of Criminology and Justice, violent crimes such as murder, robbery and arson are generally on the decline in Korean society, but crimes involving sexual violence are steadily increasing,” Jang said.

The new Netflix documentary, released on Wednesday, follows the unveiling of a sex abuse scandal in which dozens of women – including minors – were allegedly blackmailed into taking non-consensual, sexually explicit pictures and videos of themselves.

The footage was shared and sold via online chat rooms — collectively known as the “Nth Room” — on messaging app Telegram, where users paid in cryptocurrency to access the footage from 2019-2020.

A police investigation found that over 60,000 people used similar websites, Jang wrote in a May 2022 report by Amnesty International.

It is estimated that around 260,000 people allegedly paid up to around $1,500 to see the footage and that over 100 women, including 26 minors, were forced into what authorities called “virtual enslavement”. esquire Reported May 2022.

In November 2020, Cho Ju-bin, the operator of the chat rooms, was found guilty of running the online network that blackmailed victims, Reuters reported. Cho was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

A closeup of the Telegram app.
A closeup of the Telegram messaging app seen on a mobile phone screen in London, UK in May 2017 on the app.
Carl Court/Getty Images

South Korea’s growing sex crime crisis

The online sexual blackmail ring uncovered in the latest Netflix documentary only scratches the surface of South Korea’s sex crime crisis, particularly the digital sex crimes that have been rampant for years in the country known for its advanced mobile technology and fast mobile internet speeds are.

Digital sex crimes, a form of gender-based violence, fall into one of four categories as described in a June 2021 Human Rights Watch report:

  • Taking intimate pictures without consent.
  • The non-consensual sharing of images that may have been taken with consent but were not intended to be shared (e.g., images taken by or sent to a romantic partner).
  • The production of fake or manipulated images used to impersonate any person online in order to attack their reputation, relationships, and safety.
  • Sexual violence increasingly has a digital component, where a rapist can film the crime and share or threaten to do so online.

According to the report, prosecutions of sex crimes related to illegal filming increased tenfold from 2008 (when there were 585 cases) to 2017 (when the number rose to 6,615).

In 2020, the country’s rate of digital sex crimes (the vast majority of which were reportedly committed against women) was 7.5 times higher than in 2003. This is a significant increase compared to rape and sexual assault rates, which increased 1.6-fold over the same period, according to Amnesty International’s May 2022 report.

Digital sex crimes and other sex crimes have rocked the K-pop industry in recent years, such as the late Goo Hara, the K-pop singer who was found dead at her home in November 2019 after saying a “Goodnight ‘ had posted. message on her Instagram account.

About a year earlier, Goo’s ex-boyfriend, Choi Jong-bum, was accused of physically injuring Goo in a domestic incident and threatening to distribute video footage of the couple having sex.

Back in November 2019, former K-pop stars Jung Joon-young and Choi Jong-hoon were each sentenced to prison for allegedly raping a drunk and unconscious woman.

In addition, Jung was found guilty of illegally filming and distributing footage of the assault via online chat groups.

In February 2019, Seungri – a former member of K-pop boy band Big Bang – was accused of arranging sexual services for wealthy clients at the Burning Sun nightclub he owned in Seoul.

In August 2021, he was sentenced to three years in prison on multiple charges including brokering prostitution.

A closeup of hands holding a mobile phone.
A closeup of hands holding a mobile phone and looking at footage on the screen. The prevalence of digital sex crimes in South Korea has been linked to the development of technology.
iStock/Getty ImagesPlus

Why are sex crimes so widespread in South Korea?

While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why and for how long sex crimes have been a crisis in the country, “the proliferation of digital sex crimes is closely linked to the development of digital technology,” Jang said.

“With the advent of cell phones with cameras in the early 2000s, women became the primary target of non-consensual filming,” with videos so produced being shared through online services.

“Distributing and consuming illegally filmed content and exploitative materials online has become much faster and easier with the improvement in search algorithm capabilities and the advent of cloud servers that allow for mass storage and sharing,” she said.

The prevalence of sex crimes may be related to harmful gender stereotypes and other related assumptions permeating South Korean society, the researcher said.

These are based on the underlying belief that “women are not full human beings with human dignity and rights” and are rather “sex objects” whose gender role is to provide sexual services to satisfy men’s needs, she explained.

“Discrimination and patriarchal patterns that cause gender-based violence in South Korea have been reproduced and amplified in the digital world,” Jang said.

According to Human Rights Watch’s June 2021 report: “Gender-based violence is widespread, even compared to global estimates that one in three women experiences such violence.”

The report also showed that in a 2017 survey of 2,000 South Korean men, nearly 80 percent admitted to having engaged in violence against an intimate partner.

What are the laws to combat sex crimes in South Korea?

Jang said the country’s National Assembly passed the “Nth Room Prevention Act” in 2020, which went into effect in December 2021.

“The law subjects online platforms to criminal sanctions if they fail to stop the distribution of digital content depicting sex crimes on their platforms. Also, they must appoint a person to be responsible for preventing the dissemination of such content,” she said.

The South Korean Ministry of Justice also set up a Digital Sex Crimes Taskforce, which released a set of recommendations that include, as outlined by Jang:

  • The establishment of an integrated victim support system.
  • Immediate actions to remove illegal online content immediately.
  • Safeguards for Victims of Sex Offenses During Legal Proceedings.
  • Guide to media coverage of digital sex crimes.

According to the June 2021 Human Rights Watch report, a sex crime suspect is typically prosecuted once investigated. However, many cases are dropped by the public prosecutor’s office. In 2019, prosecutors dropped 46.8 percent of sex crimes cases, while only about 30 percent of murder cases and nearly 20 percent of robbery cases were dropped.

For the prosecutions that result in convictions, the penalties have been reported as “relatively light”. According to the report, in 2020 nearly 80 percent of those convicted of taking non-consensual intimate images received a suspended sentence, a fine, or a combination of both — while just over half received only a suspended sentence.

In the same year, 82 percent of those convicted of disseminating non-consensual recorded and/or disseminated sexual images received a suspended sentence, a fine, or a combination of both—with the most common penalty (accounting for 53 percent of convicted defendants). ), according to the report only a fine.

A national outcry erupted in 2018 after a woman was jailed for posting a nude photo of a man, “whereas men are usually released in such cases,” Human Rights Watch said. The incident prompted a series of protests by tens of thousands of women who marched through the streets of the South Korean capital Seoul chanting slogans such as “My life is not your porn” and “Aren’t we human?”

What needs to be done next?

According to Human Rights Watch, the most fundamental problems are the government’s failure to recognize the magnitude of the impact digital sex crimes have on survivors and the “failure to take meaningful steps to prevent these crimes by changing the deep gender inequalities that underlie the… Consumption normalizes non-consensual intimate images.”

Jang said, “It’s important to realize that ICT [Information and Communication Technologies]-facilitated violence against women is a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination and gender-based violence against women.”

According to the Amnesty International researcher, the following key basic measures must be taken to prevent sex crimes and protect victims in South Korea:

  • The government should ensure law enforcement officers are trained and equipped to implement the new laws protecting women from online violence.
  • Law enforcement officials should receive appropriate gender-sensitive training to dispel the common perception that online abuse is not a serious crime.
  • Technology companies should improve their reporting mechanisms to ensure consistent application and better response to complaints of violence and abuse.
  • Tech companies should also take “far more proactive steps” to educate users and raise awareness about security and privacy features on their platforms.

news week has asked the Korean Communications Commission, the South Korean National Assembly, the Supreme Procuratorate and the Ministry of Interior and Security for comment.

Man looking at phone in dark lighting.
A stock image of a man looking at a cellphone in a dark environment with red-tinted lighting. The prevalence of sex crimes may be linked to harmful gender stereotypes and other related assumptions permeating South Korean society, Amnesty International says.
iStock/Getty ImagesPlus

https://www.newsweek.com/netflix-cyber-hell-documentary-sex-crimes-south-korea-sexual-abuse-1707702 “Cyber ​​Hell” just scratches the surface of South Korea’s sex crime crisis

Rick Schindler

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