South Korean woman given rare jail term for spycam crime, sparking protests over double standards

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 (AFP) - A South Korean court on Monday (Aug 13) slapped a woman with a rare jail term for secretly photographing a male nude model, in a case that sparked controversy over double standards.

High-tech South Korea has been battling a growing epidemic of so-called "molka" or spycam videos, which largely involve men secretly filming women in schools, offices, trains, toilets, changing rooms and on the street.

Spycam crimes reported to police surged from around 1,100 in 2010 to more than 6,500 last year, and many offenders share or sell photos and videos online.

According to official statistics, about 98 per cent of offenders are men - ranging from school teachers and college professors to church pastors and police officers - while more than 80 per cent of victims are women.

But in the latest case, the offender was a woman in her 20s. The woman - also a nude model - was sentenced to 10 months in prison for taking a picture of her male counterpart at a Seoul art college and sharing it on the Internet in May.

She was arrested days after committing the act and paraded in front of television cameras while police raided her home to search for evidence. This has been described by many activists as an uncharacteristically swift and aggressive response.

Patriarchal values are deeply ingrained in South Korea despite its economic and technological advances.

 
 
 

State data shows that only 8.7 per cent of high-tech peeping Toms are jailed on their first conviction, with most only fined or receiving suspended terms, seen by many as a slap on the wrist.

"The whole response by the police to this rare case in which a victim is male is truly unprecedented," said Ms Seo Seung-hui, head of the Korea Cyber Sexual Violence civic group.

"We rarely see them act so quickly for countless cases in which the victims were female," she told AFP.

The case of the model - who has not been named - was a catalyst for a recent series of mass women's rallies in Seoul, at which protesters accused the police and court of treating male victims and offenders more favourably than women.

Smartphones sold in South Korea are required to make a loud shutter noise when taking pictures, but many offenders use special apps that mute the sound, or turn to high-tech spy cameras hidden inside eye glasses, lighters, watches, car keys and even neckties.