|A screen captured photo from an online petition page run by presidential office, Monday, shows that more than 2.2 million people have signed the petition demanding the police disclose the identity of a man who allegedly ran an illegal pornographic chat room. / Screen captured from presidential office website|
By Bahk Eun-ji
More than 100 men have been arrested for allegedly being involved in a group chat room where sexual exploitation and assaults on minors were operated via an app named Telegram Messenger, the police said Monday.
According to the National Police Agency, a total of 124 men were arrested as of Friday, including the primary suspect, currently known by his surname Cho and his nickname on Telegram "Baksa (doctor)," who appears to be one of individuals who produced and sold the sexually exploitive video content. The pornography ring on Telegram is also accused of blackmailing women and minors into starring in the videos and selling them to other users on the messenger platform, the police said.
|A man surnamed Cho, who is suspected of running chat rooms on Telegram messenger service, is seen getting into a police car after attending a court hearing at Seoul Central District Court in southern Seoul, Thursday. / Yonhap|
At least 74 victims are known to have been sexually exploited in the so-called Nth room on the messenger service, in which Cho allegedly lured the victims into taking naked photos and later blackmailed them into further acts.
In the chat room, around 260,000 members are suspected of watching and sharing the videos. Cho and others, who are accused of blackmailing women and minors, sold the content in return for cryptocurrency payments. The police said Cho operated at least 100 such chat rooms and charged users between 200,000 won and 1.5 million for entering there. So far, police have tracked down 124 people involved in the case, including Cho and 17 others who have been formally detained. The user who is suspected of first creating the chat room, however, still remains at large.
The case has triggered public anger here as people signed presidential petitions and shared media hashtags demanding tougher punishment against the suspects. As of Monday, nearly 2.3 million people have signed the online petition on a website ran by the presidential office demanding the police reveal the identities of the suspects, including Cho, and require him to stand on a press photo line. The number of signatures has marked the highest number of endorsements for a petition on the presidential website.
More than 1.5 million have also signed another petition demanding the government disclose the identities of the estimated 260,000 members in the group chat rooms on Telegram. The presidential office provides official responses to petitions that have received more than 200,000 signatures.