One judge, who is a son of an incumbent National Assembly member, was arrested for taking pictures of a woman’s body on the subway on July 17th. The man protested his innocence and said that he did not know that his phone camera was turned on. Another similar crime happened on July 25th. Someone took a candid shot of a person alone in the house with a flying drone near the window. These incidents became controversial and are related to the digital sexual assault, which has become increasingly widespread nowadays.
The number of digital sexual assault has rapidly increased
The meaning and range of the digital sexual crime is not yet clear. “Digital sexual assault” commonly means taking a candid shot of personal sexual relation or others’ body and includes the act of spreading these pictures or videos on the Internet. According to the National Police Agency, the number of such crimes increased from 1,523 in 2011 to 5,185 in 2016. The percentage of the whole sexual crime also rose from 3.6 percent in 2006 to 24.9 percent in 2015. Ju Su-min (Sophomore, Business Administration) told that she is afraid of going to public restrooms due to these offences. She said, “Every time I go to the public restroom, I always check whether there are hidden cameras on the wall or near the toilet. Since it is the place where anyone can come in and set a camera, now I avoid using the public restroom.”
According to Korea Communications Standards Commission (KCSC), the number of reported cases of personal sexual relation videos for the past five years is 18,809. Considering that victims tend not to report because of shame, the actual number of them could be more than 100 thousand.
Weak punishment caused widespread digital sexual assault
Recently, the crime prevention poster made by the National Police Agency this summer was controversial due to its phrasing. It says, “We need to be careful by ourselves to prevent crimes.” The “crimes” in the poster include digital sexual assault. Many people pointed out that the phrasing shifts the responsibility of the crime on to victims who are actually not to be blamed at all. Kim Ye-jin, the leader of “KungKwang,” the feminism network of Dongguk University, said, “In the past, there were many signs saying, ‘Be careful of the hidden camera.’ Now, some signs changed to ‘Do not take a candid shot.’ But, it seems that people’s consciousness of these problems is still lacking. It has a long way to go.”
Anyone can easily purchase a bottle, USB, and lighter-shaped camera or subminiature camera whose diameter of lens is less than one centimeter long. Many merchants at Jong-no Seun Shopping Mall and Yongsan Electronics Markets are selling various cameras with a storefront sign saying, “We sell hidden cameras.” Regardless of gender and age, anyone can freely search for the cameras on the Internet and buy them on the online shopping mall. There are no restraints on selling hidden cameras in Korea. In America, on the other hand, there is a legal system of selling cameras and only experts or authorized people can sell miniature cameras.
Subminiature cameras are installed into various items such as a cap, belt, and glasses. The circles in the picture are the place where the cameras are hidden.
/Photography from Seoul Jungbu Police Station
According to an Act on Sexual Crime of Violence, people, who took a candid shot, are sentenced for up to five years in prison or fined ten million won or less. When releasing the photographs or video for profit, the offenders are punished by imprisonment for seven years or less and fines of 30 million won or less. From 2011 to 2016, only six percent of offenders were sentenced by Seoul Court’s ruling. Hwang Ji-yeon (Sophomore, Business Administration) said, “I think the punishment against digital sexual assault is too weak. It should be strengthened.” Contrary to Korea, one waiter in Spain was sentenced to 333 years in prison after he was caught installing a camera in the restaurant restroom secretly.
Citizens are taking action regarding digital sexual crime
As the number of digital sexual assault increases, people try to prevent the crime by themselves. Some people purchase camera detectors or ask detection specialists to expose the cameras. When they go to the public restroom or hotel room, they take out and use the detectors to find out whether there are secretly hidden cameras installed. According to the security company “Seoyeon Security,” the number of people inquiring about detection more than tripled compared to two years before, though its price is high from 500 thousand to two million won.
Moreover, “KungKwang” had detected hidden cameras in the women’s restroom of Chungmuro Station near Dongguk on June 18th. While inspecting, they used two detectors, one from Main Hall Information Desk and another from Dongguk University Women’s Action Corp “Smash the Patriarchy” from the Department of North Korea. Only departmental representatives can borrow them from Information Desk, and every Donggukians are free to borrow and use them from “Smash the Patriarchy.” Kim Ye-jin, the leader of “KungKwang” said, “Many students do not know that there are camera detectors at school and activities of detecting them from school. I hope that this becomes widely known to students. In addition, we are planning to continue to detect cameras.”
There is also a group named, “Digital Sexual Crime Out (DSO),” that monitors the spread of surreptitious snapshots and films. Ha Ye-na (assumed name), the representative of the group, established the group to protest against digital sexual crime and punish criminals. The group hold some lectures and rally related to the digital sexual crime. The representative Ha stressed, “Although soft porn is legalized in Korea, many people tend to find more stimulating ones such as pictures and films taken secretly.” She also criticized that there is no support and protection for victims of digital sexual violence.
The group also held the rally criticizing companies which neglect the digital sexual crime with “Women’s Digital Reform” at Gangnam station exit 10 on August 18th. The participants announced their opinions of the situation that companies such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter do not take measures of the posts and photos related to digital sexual assault.
A woman is watching the rally held by Digital Sexual Crime Out (DSO). The rally criticized conglomerates which neglect posts related to the digital sexual assault.
/Photograph by Hwang Hae-su
Particiapnts of the rally are ruining the logos of Instagram and Facebook by shooting them with a water pistol (left) or scribbling with a pen (right) to express their anger at the companies.
/Photograph by Hwang Hae-su
The government’s efforts against the crime and remaining problems
To find out whether there are hidden cameras installed, Seoul Jungbu Police Station near Dongguk and “Seoul Women Sheriff” examined the restrooms in 15 subway stations, 40 fitness centers, seven swimming pools, and 21 bathhouses in the jurisdiction of the police station from July to August. Moreover, Jungbu Police Station distributed 1,000 fans warning that do not take photos secretly to people in front of Dongguk Univ. Station and in the subway. Kim Hyun-hee, the Chief of Women & Juvenile section of Seoul Jungbu Police Station, stated, “If there is just one person using the fan in one subway car that we handed out, at least people who realize the fan would not take photos of others’ body in that car.”
The fans which Jungbu Police Station distributed to citizen.
/Photograph by Hwang Hae-su
Some lawmakers recently proposed legislation related to digital sexual crime to parliament. On May 24th, lawmaker Lee Yong-ho made a proposal to amend some of the Special Act on Punishment of Sexual Assault Crimes. In the proposal, he strengthened the fine of selling and providing pictures and video secretly taken from ten to 50 million. In addition, he added the case of “shooting at a place where the public is concentrated” and “the case where it is released on the Internet while knowing that it is a video secretly taken” to the additional punishment that is limited to for profit.
On July 19th, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced that they are considering ways to support the cost of removing videos for the victims whose videos are circulated on the Internet. It would help the victims by supporting expensive video deletion costs ranging from one to three million won per month for three months to one year.
Even though lawmakers have become aware of increasing digital sexual assault and begin proposing the bill, it is still not enough to prevent the crime. Lee Chang-Bae, the professor of College of Police & Criminal Justice pointed out the courts’ interpretation of the punishment criteria is limited. He said, “A few years ago one man took photos secretly of one woman while both of them were in the elevator. However, he was presumed innocence since the victim wore a long sleeved shirt and leggings which do not expose her body.” Professor Lee added, “When the offenders of the digital sexual crime are punished, it is not easy for the victims to erase their video on the Internet. Hence, the court should make the offender to compensate for removing the films of the victims.
People should not overlook the digital sexual crime
There is a new word, “sexual assault by watching” which means just watching the related video can be a sexual assault to someone. Most of the site in which people post illegal films earn advertising revenue. The ad revenue fee of film secretly taken is from 50 to 100 won per one view. The representative of DSO said, “This shows that thousands of 100 won coins are thrown to one woman. It is act of buying and selling sexual violence. I hope the concept of digital sexual violence becomes clear to people.” According to her, some people distribute the video freely, which is all to show off. Distributors have no reason to upload the images and films without the viewers.
Ha Ye-na pointed out that we should report to the police when we notice there is an illegal video on the Internet. She explained that it is easy to access posts and videos related to digital sexual violence on the Internet especially on Facebook. She said, “If you see them, you should report to the police. That is what we have to do for making a better and more safety society.”
Kim Hyun-hee, the Chief of Women & Juvenile section, also emphasized that people should report to the police when you notice that someone take photos of you secretly. This crime has a high rate of recidivism. Many of the victims of this crime are annoyed and tend to have the offenders delete the pictures and then just let them go away. If it happens, the offenders feel thrilled since the victims just let them go. Another problem is that deleted pictures can be restored again. Kim Hyun hee said, “The victims must report to the police. If you just let them go, they would do that again. When we arrest the offender, we check their phones and lap top computers to find whether there are other illegal pictures or films. Also, we examine their messengers such as Kakaotalk and BAND to find whether they distribute those to others. Therefore, reporting to police is never a waste of time.”
Hwang Hae-su email@example.com
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