South Korea sexual abuse blackmail ring trigger calls for crackdown
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’