South Korea sex­ual abuse black­mail ring trig­ger calls for crack­down

The Guardian - - World - Justin McCurry and agen­cies

A sex­ual black­mail ring that tar­geted dozens of women in­clud­ing un­der­age girls through a mes­sag­ing app has rocked South Korea and trig­gered de­mands for au­thor­i­ties to crack down on online sex­ual of­fences.

Po­lice yes­ter­day named the man who al­legedly ran an online net­work that lured at least 58 women and 16 girls into “vir­tual en­slave­ment” by black­mail­ing them into send­ing de­grad­ing and vi­o­lent sex­ual images of them­selves.

Cho Ju-bin faces charges of vi­o­lat­ing the child pro­tec­tion act, the pri­vacy act and the sex­ual abuse act, as well as abuse, threats and co­er­cion. The 25-year-old is ac­cused of dis­tribut­ing and stream­ing the videos in a group cha­t­room on the app Tele­gram.

A record 5 mil­lion peo­ple signed pe­ti­tions on the pres­i­den­tial office web­site de­mand­ing that au­thor­i­ties re­veal the ring leader’s iden­tity.

“I apol­o­gise to those who were hurt by me,” said Cho as he was led out of a po­lice sta­tion in Seoul yes­ter­day. “Thank you for end­ing the life of a de­mon that I couldn’t stop.”

The South Korean pres­i­dent, Moon Jae-in, said the crimes were “cruel” and that pub­lic anger was “jus­ti­fi­able”.

Po­lice will in­ves­ti­gate users who paid up to 1.5m won (£1,000) in cryp­tocur­rency to view the abu­sive images.

Cho al­legedly ap­proached women seek­ing part-time work and of­fered them pay­ment in re­turn for nude pho­to­graphs, the news agency Yon­hap said. He then al­legedly threat­ened to re­veal their iden­ti­ties un­less they sent clips of them­selves per­form­ing sex­ual acts, some in­volv­ing vi­o­lence.

Some were forced to carve the word “slave” on their bod­ies and pose in a way that would prove to cha­t­room users they “be­longed” to Cho. The vic­tims in­cluded 16 girls of mid­dleschool age, South Korean me­dia said.

More than 120 sus­pects had been ar­rested and 18 oper­a­tors of cha­t­rooms had been de­tained since Septem­ber.

The Korea Her­ald said the Cho case proved the need to strengthen penal­ties for sex­ual crimes. Cur­rently, those found in pos­ses­sion of abu­sive images of chil­dren re­ceive a year in prison or a fine of 20m won (£14,000) – a penalty the news­pa­per de­scribed as a “slap on the wrist”.

▲ Cho Ju-bin al­legedly lured women and girls into ‘vir­tual en­slave­ment’

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