|Son Jong-woo ran the world's largest child sex abuse website with more than 220,000 videos of child pornography and sexually exploitive contents. Korea Times file|
By Kim Se-jeong
The father of the 24-year-old man, who ran the world's largest child sex abuse website, has been drawing a public outcry for making an "emotional" appeal to the judiciary not to extradite his son to the United States.
Son Jong-woo finished his 18-month-long jail term for making and trafficking in sexually exploitative content using children on his website. However, he's still in custody because of the extradition request from the U.S., which has indicted him on nine charges.
In a letter to an appeals court that will hear the case, the father wrote: "I send my deepest apology to the victims. I am not asking the court to condone what he did, but as a father, sending him to the U.S. where he doesn't speak the language and isn't familiar with food, would be too much for him."
He continued: "If you have a child, you'd understand my desperateness. In the U.S., my son could be sentenced up to 100 years in prison. If my son is sent to the U.S., I won't be able to see him again in this life… If he can serve his jail term in Korea, at least I can visit him sometimes in jail."
The father also told his family story as an excuse: "My wife and I divorced when he was four years old. My mom took care of him and I worked. I had to work a lot so didn't have time to look after him properly. I bought him a computer so that he could have something to do. He skipped school a lot but I couldn't really do anything because I had work. He is not bad. We were always poor and he just tried to earn money for the family and that's how he got into criminal acts."
He posted the same message on the Cheong Wa Dae online petition website.
However, the appeal drew criticism on the internet.
"Just as your son is still young with many years to live, the victims have many more years to live and he ruined them all," one person said on the web portal Naver. Another reply said: "Don't say your son was ruined because you're poor and divorced. I was also raised by my grandmother and we were poor, but I would never even think about doing what your son did."
From 2015, Son ran the website, named Welcome to Video, which had eight terabytes of child pornography footage and sexual exploitation content involving children, infants and toddlers. The website had more than 220,000 child sexual abuse videos.
The website was accessible through a special browser and had at least 3,344 paid members from around the world. Among the 3,344, law enforcement bodies identified 310, among whom more than 200 were Koreans.
In 2018, he was caught and sentenced to 18 months in prison. But, instead of being released after his jail term was finished, he remains in custody because of the U.S. government's extradition request.
The appeals court is expected to question Son May 19 as part of its extradition hearings.