South Korea has a huge problem with digital sex crimes against women, says Human Rights Watch • The Register


International non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report Wednesday describing digital sex crime in South Korea as rampant and ubiquitous, with the nation leading the way in using spycams to track women at risk. The author urges governments and companies to do more.

The 105 side report, [PDF] Written by Heather Barr, based on interviews with 38 women and an online survey. It describes gender-based violence that is carried out online in Korea, most of which target women and girls, using digital images that are often captured and / or shared without consent.

“This report examines how technological innovations can facilitate gender-based violence when government and corporations fail to provide adequate rights-based protections,” writes Barr.

South Korea has the highest rate of adult smartphone ownership, world-class internet speeds and internet access in 99.5 percent of households in the world. The problem, according to the report, is that the nation is lagging behind in developing gender equality, ranking 102nd out of 156 nations ranked in the 2021 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap.

Between 2008 and 2017, illicit picture taking rose from four to eleven percent of the sex crimes prosecuted in the country, with many other incidents not being tracked or counted. Between 2013 and 2018, over 30,000 cases of movies were reported with hidden cameras – cameras implanted in homes, public spaces, used in upskirt videos, and more.

The illegal footage shows women in sexual situations, everyday moments and vulnerable moments such as urinating, showering or undressing. Extreme cases include rape or virtual enslavement, in which a person is blackmailed into sending increasingly descriptive or degrading pictures of themselves.

The perpetrators use the images for either masturbation or financial gain – they sell the footage, use advertising to monetize it, or both. An hour and a half of footage retails for approximately five million won ($ 4,470).

Shameful, but not reportable

The report claims that the problem is often dismissed by police, prosecutors, judges and lawmakers because it is only digital rather than physical and is therefore not considered feasible The much harm, but deeply shameful for some women in conservative Korea. The women mentioned in the report have often been blamed for their clothing, behavior, presence or involvement in sexual activities. Prosecutors dropped over 43 percent of sexual digital crime cases in 2019, and 79 percent of those convicted in 2020 received a suspended sentence, a fine, or a combination of both.

Barr declared The registry that online videos have the potential to follow these women for the rest of their lives – through their careers and relationships.

The broader impact, Barr said The reg, is that some women and girls are often nervous and unsure who and where to trust. The women in the report have had to avoid public toilets, change their wardrobe to only wear long dresses and non-flashy clothes, and even leave the internet – to be inaccessible or to have their information online and because they are afraid of what you could find of yourself on a website if you search.

Many women have committed suicide or have moved abroad. A woman lived in a tent in her home to avoid exposure to a camera without her knowledge. Other women said they had given up dating altogether. Another was operated on plastic.

Spycams all over

Popular spycams can be hidden in everyday objects such as clocks or paintings. Barr described too The registry Meet a professional from a spy camera detection company whose job it is to go into houses and look for the intrusive hardware. The man started pulling out items: a Starbucks cup, a Coke can, a calculator, a shampoo bottle, a hook for a back door. Everything had a camera. The seller told Barr the cameras stream audio and video in color, even in a dark room, 24 hours a day.

Spycam detection isn’t the only industry getting around this problem. There are also companies that can help with image removal online. If images are removed, they must be discovered, captured as evidence, and deleted. One woman reported that while petitions were easy to file on some platforms, Google was “particularly slow, taking several days or up to a week to remove abusive images.” Even after removing pictures, thumbnails can remain on websites such as Instagram or Twitter.

A press release from the South Korean Ministry of Equality and Family announcing the establishment of a state survival center read:

In 2018, after six protests, the South Korean government passed a law to broaden the range of criminal offenses as digital sex crimes and to tighten penalties. Further revisions were made in 2020.

Articles 13 and 14 of Sex Crimes Act make it illegal for a person to take photos of a person who can cause “sexual stimulus or humiliation” without the victim’s consent, but the HRW report argues that this decision is subjective and leaves out those that are filmed if they do everyday things in their home and other private rooms without consent. It’s not about audio recordings either. In addition, it doesn’t allow any nuance between those who share a video with friends and those who upload a video for a profit.

The registry Barr asked how South Korea and the world can move forward. She said she would like to see tech companies focus on prevention rather than relying on government processes, adding:

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