“It will always be on someone’s computer”: Digital sex crime plagues Korean women

South Korea’s cutting-edge technology has fueled a wave of digital sex crimes targeting young women and girls.

According to victims, researchers and advocacy groups, South Korea is a global center for illegally shooting and sharing explicit images and videos.

Digital technology, including high-speed streaming media and encrypted chat rooms, provides a new medium for communication Deep-rooted sexism And disseminate materials describing sexual violence against women.

“Unfortunately, South Korea has always been a leader in the prevalence, diversity and severity of digital sex crimes,” said Heather Barr, co-director of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch.

The country has the world’s highest adult smartphone ownership rate and the fastest Internet speed, with 99.5% of households having access to the Internet.It is also the first Launch 5G service.

A new Human Rights Watch report based on interviews with victims and their families emphasizes that crimes often involve intimate photos taken and disseminated by strangers and female acquaintances.

In one case, Lee Ye-rin* discovered that a clock given as a gift by an employer had been playing videos in her bedroom for several weeks.

“What happened happened in my own room-so sometimes… In my own room, I feel scared for no reason,” Li said. She added that one year after the crime was discovered, she still relies on prescription drugs to fight depression and anxiety.

Another victim, Jiang Yuzhen*, was forced to resign and move after her former partner posted a private photo and identifiable details (including her home and office address).

“In the church where my parents attended, someone wanted to contact me… Someone sent me [messages] Make love. There are also men who come to work at my house,” she said.

Researchers point out that in addition to the dangers of stigma and harassment, suicide is also common.

“I am very afraid of my future,” said another victim, Wu Xiuzhen*. “It will always be on someone’s computer…[I thought]’I hope this stops’ but this question will never end. .. So if this cannot be stopped, I want to stop my life. “

Although digital sex crime is a global problem, the report released by the US-based Human Rights Watch on Wednesday also exposed South Korea’s relatively light punishments and lack of protection for victims of digital sex crimes.

“Officials in the criminal justice system-most of whom are men-often seem to not understand or accept these very serious crimes at all…. Survivors are forced to deal with these crimes for life without the help of the legal system,” Barr said.

Despite increased public awareness and legal reforms, the number of sex crimes involving illegal filming continues to rise.

Last year, student researchers and the police discovered a secret chat room on the Telegram messaging app that contained images of child sexual abuse. According to estimates by the Korea Cyber ​​Sexual Violence Response Center, the material was viewed by 260,000 people.

According to data from the Korea Women’s Human Rights Institute, the number of cases related to illegal shooting and dissemination of images and videos last year was nearly 7,000, an increase of 70% over 2019, indicating that the intensity of reporting has increased.

But few cases have been punished. Human Rights Watch said that prosecutors reduced the number of digital sex crimes by 44% in 2019, and in 2020, nearly 80% of people convicted of taking intimate photos without consent were sentenced to probation, fines, or both.

Last year, a South Korean court rejected an extradition request from the United States. The man was sentenced to only 18 months in prison for violating the South Korean Child Protection Act. The man was later convicted of operating one of the world’s largest child pornography websites.

The government is criticized Failure to address gender inequality, Analysts say this has contributed to digital crime.

A female Air Force sergeant committed suicide last month after being sexually harassed by a male colleague. The Air Force allegedly tried to cover up the case. Her death caused a public uproar that forced Li Chengyong, chief of staff of the Air Force, to resign.

Despite calls for tougher action after a series of high-profile incidents #MeToo cases involving K-pop stars And senior politicians have made little progress in preventing the abuse of women in South Korea’s patriarchal society.

In the 2021 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, the country ranks 102nd among 156 countries, and the gender gap in economic participation and opportunity is the largest among all advanced economies.

According to Human Rights Watch, women in South Korea are engaged in unpaid work four times as many as men, while earning 32.5% less.

Barr said: “The root cause of digital sex crime in South Korea is that harmful views and behaviors about women and girls that the government urgently needs to address are widely accepted.”

*Name has been changed

If you are affected by anything in this story and need help, you can call Lifeline Korea at 1588-9191. In the UK, the Samaritan’s phone number is 116 123. The national suicide prevention lifeline in the United States is 1-800-273-8255.

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About the Author: Agnes Zang