|From left are singer-turned-actress Jung Ryeo-won, singer and actress Hyeri, indie band Se So Neon's lead vocalist and guitarist Hwang So-yoon, singer songwriter Baek Ye-rin and idol group VIXX's Ravi Korea Times file|
By Park Ji-won
Some celebrities are raising their voices over the recent sexual exploitation case here, calling for harsher punishments for those who coerced young women and underage girls into sending them sex videos that they circulated online for money.
Singer and actress Hyeri, who rose to stardom through the hit TV series "Replay 1988," uploaded screen shots of online petitions on the presidential office's website as she called for the disclosure of the identities of suspects who circulated sex videos through social media Telegram. She wrote she was "terrified" and had difficulty controlling her anger at the sex offenders, urging people to sign the petition. "I hope they face harsher punishment for what they did," she wrote.
She made such remarks after police arrested a group of men who made or received sex videos of at least 74 people, including 16 minors. They reportedly distributed the sex videos through multiple online chat rooms named the "Nth Room" on Telegram.
The suspects are facing multiple charges such as violating the law to protect minors from sexual offenses and the law on distributing illegally-filmed content. More than 260,000 people were members of the chat rooms, allegedly paying between 200,000 won and 1.5 million won to watch the illegal videos.
Over 124 people involved have been arrested since the police began investigating last September.
The case became viral after an increasing number of celebrities urged people to join hands to tackle the case. As of Monday afternoon, a record 2.25 million people signed the petition calling for the images and personal information of the suspects to be revealed to the public.
Prior to Hye-ri, actress Ha Yeon-soo wrote on Instagram on March 10 that "The way the perpetrators think is dangerous and unethical. They have been not only raping minors but insulting their acquaintances. They should get severely punished and criticized harshly."
Singer-turned-actress Jung Ryeo-won also uploaded a photo Sunday reading "You, who entered the chat room, are all murderers."
Indie band Se So Neon's lead vocalist and guitarist Hwang So-yoon also wrote on Instagram that "It is important to speak up and not be a bystander. Because keeping silent or taking a neutral stance means to stand by the abuser."
A growing number of celebrities including singer-songwriter Baek Ye-rin, idol group VIXX's Ravi, actress Sohn Soo-hyun and idol group 2AM's singer and actor Jokwon uploaded photos to raise awareness of the case while urging people to sign the petition to give the perpetrators stronger punishment.