South Korea setting an example to the World
In the initial months of 2020, South Korea came down heavily on the digital sex crimes. New penal guidelines were launched increasing imprisonment for production and distribution of sexually exploiting materials upto 5 years. The event prompting the above step was a college going student Cho Joo Bin, the mastermind involved in the digital sex abuse through a social media platform “Telegram”. The incident rolled media eyes when Cho was sentenced to a 40 year imprisonment for being guilty of targeting almost upto 74 women and putting them to virtual enslavement on social media.The disturbing case involves the alleged coercion and blackmailing of at least 58 women and 16 girls, starting from late 2018. Other 18 additional perpetrators were also arrested over a hundred other chat room participants.
As per the news reports, 260,000 participants, including overlapping members in different chat rooms, paid up to US$1,200 for access, by demonstrating themselves as anti-feminist. The chat room operator obtained explicit sexual and sometimes violent footage of victims, such as nude photos, by luring women and girls under false pretenses, including offering employment. He further gathered their names and contact details, and subsequently used the images to blackmail them into producing increasingly cruel and dehumanizing footage.This case is commonly referred to as Telegram Nth Room, and sparked widespread public outrage. Millions of Koreans signed petitions calling for police to reveal the identities of the chat room operator and all other participants.
Ground for Action:
A 23 year old student Cho Joo Bin was arrested during an operation styling himself as a mid 40 year businessman in a group chat room called “Guru’s Room” on Telegram app. He allegedly used to blackmail the victims by sending them their degrading and violent sexual images. He was also accused of distributing and streaming sexually violent videos to a group chat room called Baksagang where he was commonly known as ‘Baksa’ meaning Doctor in Korean language.
The Seoul Central District Court found Cho guilty of violating minor protection laws and making a profit from production and distribution of sexually abusive videos. The Court commented the sentence to be appropriate following the gravity of his offences. Cho was arrested in March and his arrest was followed by a widespread anger and protests of people in South Korea demanding strict penalties as they are already combatting the infestation of online sexual violence. Ultimately, on November 26, one of those terrifying chapters was ended by the pronouncement.
Prior to this instance in South Korea, generally, the offenders used to get away with nominal fines. This sentence brings a light of hope to victims battling sexual abuse as well as activists demanding stricter penal provisions for offendors and serves as a lesson that the legal system will now take such crimes seriously and the example will improve the aftermath of digital sexual violences.
South Korea has been suffering from deep rooted gender inequality for a long time, and the same is evident from the world ranker gap in economic participation and opportunities for women. Adding more to it, the percentage of women in leadership roles is so minimal, that it stands amongst the worst in the world. According to the victims, the discriminative standards of the society are majorly responsible for such offences and an intense societal change can only put an end to gender based online sexual violences.
The Ministry of Justice of South Korea has apologized for its ancient “lukewarm response” to digital sex crimes and has promised stricter efforts. The commissioner general of police committed a thorough investigation of the Telegram Nth Room case, creating two new bodies, the first dedicated to cooperating with overseas law enforcement authorities and technology companies, and the second a prosecution-led task force that incorporates expertise in child and youth crimes and recovering illegally obtained gains from criminals. The vital requirement for putting an end to such miserable and disgusting crimes is to get to the radicles of widespread presence of such offences and extend a high quality medical and psychological support to the survivors to normalise their lives and create a better ambience for them by reforming criminal laws to protect women from violence and protect their right to privacy while also protecting freedom of expression. Police, prosecutors, and judges need to ensure that survivors’ rights are at the forefront of all justice responses. Also the authorities must restrict every access to such traumatizing and dehumanizing materials available online. It’s about time to exhibit a clear message, “ ONE’S BODY CANNOT BE THE MEANS OF PLEASURE FOR ANOTHER AT ANY COST”.