Public toilets in South Korea to be monitored to crack down on spycam porn

Female protesters shouting slogans during a rally against "spycam porn" in central Seoul on Aug 4, 2018.
Female protesters shouting slogans during a rally against "spycam porn" in central Seoul on Aug 4, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Public bathrooms at all transport hubs in South Korea, including airports, bus terminals and metro and train stations, will be regularly monitored as a measure to better deal with secret cameras installed in public toilets, as well as spycam pornography that has been prevalent in the country's cyberspace, the government has announced.

The government is also installing educational posters - declaring "Illicit filming of others is a crime. So is watching the footage online" - in some 1,000 institutions for women's and children's rights, as well as 254 police stations nationwide.

Spycam pornography, locally known as "molka", generally refers to secretly produced, sexually exploitive videos or pictures of women in public spaces, such as restrooms and subways, among others.

Such content has also been created and shared online by victims' former boyfriends, typically in retaliation, with the intent to damage the women's future job and marriage prospects.

The announcement on Sunday (Aug 5) follows on the heels of the fourth edition of ongoing women's rights rallies against spycam pornography, which was held near the presidential office in central Seoul on Saturday.

According to organisers, some 70,000 people participated in the rally last weekend - about 10,000 more than the previous one held last month - in spite of a scorching heatwave that has gripped the country.

Since the first edition in May, the demonstrations have been recorded as the biggest women's movement in South Korean history.

Some of the famous signs that protesters held during the rally include "My life is not your porn" and "Angry women change the world".

The protesters claim that many South Korean women feel unsafe using public bathrooms, fearing they may be filmed and the footage may spread online without their knowledge.

Once entering a bathroom stall, checking for peepholes that may contain secret lenses - and stuffing tissues inside if there are indeed holes - has become common practice among South Korean women, they say.

The new measures were introduced as government data showed that 24 per cent of all spycam-related crimes have so far taken place at transport sites - including public restrooms in crowded metro stations, highway rest areas and airports.

The data also showed that the number of reported crimes involving secret cameras has been increasing significantly since the early 2010s, from 2,400 in 2012 to 6,465 last year. Almost all the victims of such crimes in the country have been women. 

Some of the male perpetrators who have committed such offences include a pastor running a large church in North Chungcheong province and a judge whose father was a lawmaker with the main opposition Korea Liberty Party.

The new government measure requires all South Koreans who operate transport sites to establish a special team to monitor the property, including public restrooms, and to inspect for secretly installed cameras at least once a day.

Those who do not comply will be subject to fines, the authorities added.

A public bathroom that has been monitored and regulated well and consistently for a significant amount of time will be designated a "clean zone".

The government is also putting up posters to educate people that downloading and watching such videos is also illegal.

"We are trying to emphasise that it is also illegal to download and watch such content online, on top of filming and posting the so-called spycam porn," said an official from the Gender Equality Ministry.

 
 

While there is no doubt that the mass women's rights rallies have been the major driving force behind the changes, recent research showed that only about 50 per cent of South Korean women and 20 per cent of South Korean men endorse the cause.

A study by the Korea Press Foundation, which surveyed some 1,000 Korean men and women aged 20 to 59, found that 72.5 per cent of those who did not support the rallies think the protests may, in fact, make more South Koreans think negatively of feminism.

At the same time, 17.1 per cent said South Korean women do not experience gender-based violence and discrimination to an extent that they need to hold a mass rally.

The women's rights rallies have been a subject of debate as some participants have made controversial remarks against men during previous editions. They were later accused by critics of openly committing hate speech.

Among other public figures, Gender Minister Chung Hyun-back has been criticised for publicly endorsing the mass rally in spite of existing controversies in the past.