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  HOME | Science, Nature & Technology

Digital Peeping Toms Continue to Threaten Women’s Privacy in South Korea

SEOUL – Helplessness among South Korean women have continued to grow as government measures have proved inadequate to curb the illegal invasion of their privacy through the non-consensual recording and sharing of sex videos by men.

In early March, the South Korean music industry was rocked by one of its biggest scandals ever, involving a K-Pop star, who was accused of facilitating prostitution services – banned in South Korea – to potential business investors, and of drugging and sexually abusing women in clubs located in the posh Gangnam district of Seoul.

The investigation had also revealed a chat room conversation in which several K-Pop singers, including Seungri, a former member of another bang Bigbang and the main suspect in the case, shared photos and sexually explicit videos of women, which were recorded without their consent.

Around the same time, the police detained four men for installing hidden cameras in dozens of motels and creating a paid web page – with around 4,000 subscribers – where the videos of some 1,600 people were live streamed.

The wireless video cameras were hidden in hair dryer holders, television sets or wall sockets, a Cyber Investigation Department at the National Police Agency officer, Hong Hye-Jeong told EFE.

Hong also said that in 2018 a similar case, involving a motel in Seoul, had come to light, although the suspect in the case did not share anything on the internet.

Since last year, thousands of South Korean women have taken to the streets to protest against “revenge porn” and “molka,” or the distribution of sexually explicit footage filmed secretly without women’s consent.

It has become a cause of serious concern in South Korea in the last few years.

During the protests, thousands of women had demonstrated their anger at the possibility of being filmed while having sex, using washrooms or changing clothes in their homes.

There have been incidents, where perpetrators have secretly filmed women in their homes using powerful lenses.

In South Korea, the non-consensual filming and distribution of pictures that may cause shame or titillate is considered a special case of sexual crime, which is punishable with imprisonment of up to five years or steep fines to the tune of 10 million Korean won (around $8,900).

Following the recent uproar in the country over illegal filming of women, the South Korean government had began regular monitoring of public toilets, established support groups for victims and pledged quick resolution of the court cases, but none of it has worked as a deterrent.

Raising awareness about the problem as an invasion of privacy have also not been a success.

Hong said that it was, “technically impossible” to monitor and prevent every case of illegal filming, but added that the NPA has developed a new system that is able to detect wireless signals from a considerable distance.

“As we cannot enter every room in every motel, we have come up with a system to detect signal from the passages of the motels,” Hong said, speaking about the technology that will be distributed to police units across the country soon.

As for closing down the pages that host these molka videos, Hong points out that it was not easy as a majority of the times, the server is based in some other country.

Over the last few weeks, the South Korean media has also been highlighting the underlying male chauvinism, misogyny and sexual commodification of women that has been fueling the molka culture.

South Korean men do not consider the molka culture to be wrong and it is highlighted in the K-Pop scandal where the men were not just exchanging videos but also talking about drugging and raping women casually, or even the reaction of internet users to the scandal.

“First and foremost, people should not film illegal sex videos and share it with others and nor should they be able to find them and have a desire to watch them,” said Lee Hyo-rin, head of Cyber Lion, an organization that supports victims of such crimes.

She further added that currently the effort was to regulate online content but that the gravity of the situation would very soon require it to be regulated offline too, and will require collaboration between the government, private sector and civil society.


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