South Korea's Moon calls for probe into online porn ring

SEOUL • South Korean President Moon Jae-in called yesterday for a full investigation into a network of chat rooms at the heart of an operation to blackmail women and underage girls into sharing sexual images of themselves.

The National Police Agency said 124 suspects had been arrested and 18 operators of chat rooms on Telegram and other social media had been detained as a result of investigations into such sexual crimes since last September.

The perpetrators would attract victims through fake job ads and then solicit compromising photographs. They would threaten to release the photographs if the victims did not send images of increasingly degrading and violent acts, police said.

At least 74 women, including 16 underage girls, were "virtually enslaved" for several months, police said. In some cases, the victims were blackmailed into committing violent acts on themselves.

Public outrage hit critical mass yesterday, with a petition gathering more than 2.3 million signatures - passing a threshold that requires a response from the President's Office.

The author of the petition urged the authorities to disclose the identity and the face of the man, who allegedly lured victims into taking nude images of themselves and shared them on a chat room on Telegram, a popular encrypted messaging app.

The petition also criticised other participants who paid as much as 1.5 million won (S$1,700) to view the images.

The presidential Blue House spokesman Kang Min-seok told reporters that Mr Moon considered the alleged crimes to be "a cruel act that destroyed human life" and that he had asked police to treat the case as a serious crime.

Mr Moon also urged police to expand their probe into the members of the chat rooms to change the perception of perpetrators who "hide behind anonymity".

 
 
 

As digital sex crimes rise worldwide, South Korea has also become the global epicentre of spycam pornography.

The South Korean, British and US authorities said late last year that they had arrested 337 people worldwide, including 223 South Koreans, after knocking out a child pornography website operated from South Korea.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 24, 2020, with the headline 'S. Korea's Moon calls for probe into online porn ring'. Subscribe