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Millennials, Gen. Z vulnerable to digital sex crime

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As digital sex crime has become an increasing threat mostly to the MZ generations of Korea who frequent cyber communities, the need for Seoul Metropolitan Government's support center for victims also rose. The poster above, aimed at raising awareness on digital sex crime, reads
As digital sex crime has become an increasing threat mostly to the MZ generations of Korea who frequent cyber communities, the need for Seoul Metropolitan Government's support center for victims also rose. The poster above, aimed at raising awareness on digital sex crime, reads "Illegal video recording is a crime." Gettyimagesbank

Center helps victims of digital sex crime

By Ko Dong-hwan

Lee, an 18-year-old girl in Seoul, met an unidentified male at an online chatting space through social media. He asked her where she lives, which school she attends and asked for photos of her. His demands became more lurid as he asked for more revealing photos, which turned her off and prompted her to ignore his additional messages. Later, Lee's friend informed her that the photos she had shared with him were being shared on a particular social media site.

Lee soon contacted the Seoul Metropolitan Government's support center for sex crime victims, which launched last March, and requested assistance in getting the photos deleted. Fifteen days after the center did so, the footage was again found being shared online. In addition to pulling the images down again, the center this time hired a lawyer for Lee and her parents to legally confront the individual who posted the images. While he is now due to appear before a court, the center provided the victim, who was experiencing extreme anxiety, and her family with psychological therapy sessions. The photos were later found again on another social site but the center, which monitors for such content, promptly deleted them.

Exactly eight months into the operation, as of Tuesday, the center has dealt with almost 5,000 digital sex crimes. According to Gender Equality Division under the city government's Women and Family Policy Affairs Office, 270 victims contacted the center during the period. The authority also deleted 2,194 videos and photos. Including the number of launched investigations and the number of times it provided legal support, consultations and psychological therapy sessions, the figure jumps to 4,926. The center worked with the National Police Agency and Korea Communications Standards Commission, a private whistleblower focusing on the country's media, to help the victims. Cooperation between the three helped to nab seven sex offenders.

Officers from Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's Cyber Crime Unit and Australian Federal Police investigate the home of
Officers from Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's Cyber Crime Unit and Australian Federal Police investigate the home of "L" in a suburb of Sydney, a Korean national who made and distributed sex videos on Telegram starting in 2020 and continuing until last August. He was arrested in a Sydney suburb on Nov. 23. Courtesy of Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency

Out of the deleted content, over 54 percent involved underage victims and most of the content was shared on social media. Out of those who sought the center's help, over 37 percent were in their 20s, over 18 percent were in their 30s and over 15 percent were under 18 years old. The victims suffered mostly from anxiety due to possible public leaks of their personal photos or videos. Others, in lesser proportions, suffered anxiety after being illegally filmed or photographed, their content being publicly shared, and related fears of possible acts of physical or emotional violence being carried out on them, such as being stalked.

Seoul Foundation of Women and Family's survey of 1,057 Seoulites in their 20s and 30s between last August and September showed that 32 percent had been immediate victims of or indirectly experienced digital sex crimes. Of those who had such experiences, 75 percent said they were initially directly asked to have sexual intercourse, while a lesser proportion responded they were first approached via acts of "online grooming" where offenders first break the ice with their targets via friendly gestures to later make the targets more amenable to their manipulative demands. Almost 90 percent of all respondents said these kind of sex crimes are a serious matter in the country.

Kim Sun-soon, the chief of the Women and Family Policy Affairs Office, said that it is important for the authorities to prevent, investigate crimes and support victims through as wide a range of measures as much as possible because the crime surfaces via a multitude of methods and victimizes in various forms including stalking and violence against romantic partners.

The city government on Wednesday is hosting a forum at Seoul Women's Plaza in Dongjak District to raise the city's awareness concerning digital sex crimes and calling for social safety nets. Kim said that with the forum's conclusions, the city government will update policies to prevent further violations.

The country has in recent years seen a rise in such crimes. For example, a group of male celebrities was exposed for sharing videos of women being sexually exploited via KakaoTalk, the country's most widely used instant messaging app, and a syndicate made headlines for forcing underage and young females into sexual acts to satisfy members of a website it illegally operated called "Nth Room." Most recently, a Korean national in his 20s who called himself "L" was arrested by Korean and Australian police in a Sydney suburb on Nov. 23, alongside his 21 accomplices, for making and distributing online sex videos involving underage subjects.


Ko Dong-hwan aoshima11@koreatimes.co.kr


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