S.Korea 'spycam' porn site founder's jail term criticised as too lenient

by Seulki Lee | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 10 January 2019 09:45 GMT

A woman holding her mobile phone walks past a store in Seoul, South Korea, June 22, 2018. Picture taken June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

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Tens of thousands of women took to the streets of Seoul last year to protest against the spy camera porn phenomenon

By Seulki Lee

SEOUL, Jan 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A four-year jail sentence given to the co-founder of a South Korean porn website that hosted thousands of videos of women filmed secretly was criticised by campaigners on Thursday for being too light to be a deterrent.

Tens of thousands of women took to the streets of Seoul last year to protest against the spy camera porn phenomenon, which women's rights groups said had reached epidemic proportions in tech-savvy South Korea.

Set up in 1999, Soranet attracted more than a million users and hosted thousands of videos of women having sex or undressing that were captured illegally until it was shut in 2016 following activists' complaints.

Campaigner Park Soo-yeon, who played a key role in bringing down Soranet, said she was unhappy with the four-year prison sentence handed down to the female co-founder of the website.

"The sentence is too light," said Park, founder of the Digital Sexual Crime Out campaign group.

"The ruling fails to warn others to stop using spy-cams but instead (sends a message) that they can get away with it easily," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Distributing and making pornographic materials is punishable under South Korean law but remains widespread. The number of spycam porn cases jumped to nearly 6,500 in 2017, from about 2,400 in 2012 according to Yonhap news agency.

Campaigners said the scandal is indicative of wider sexism in South Korea, which is ranked 115 out of 149 countries in the World Economic Forum's 2018 Global Gender Gap report.

The co-founder, surnamed Song, was found guilty by a court in the capital Seoul on Wednesday for aiding and abetting the distribution of obscene material between 1999 and 2016, the Korea Herald newspaper reported.

Song was also fined 1.4 billion won ($1.25 million) and ordered to attend 80 hours of sexual violence prevention education.

Court officials were not immediately available for comment.

Song initially fled to New Zealand after probes into Soranet began in 2015 but was arrested last year in South Korean after officials annulled her passport.

Three other suspects - her husband and another couple - remain at large, according to the Korea Herald.

Kim Yeo-jin from the non-profit Korea Cyber Sexual Violence Response Centre said authorities must strengthen enforcement against spycam porn site operators and introduce new laws to seize profits.

"They have evidently perpetrated sexual violence and made a profit from it," said the group's secretary-general.

As public anger boiled over last year, the government announced a series of measures including forming a taskforce to help victims and increased inspections of public places.

($1 = 1,118.0200 won)

(Writing by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Michael Taylor. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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