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  • The epidemic of spycam videos across South Korea is referred to as

    The epidemic of spycam videos across South Korea is referred to as "molka." | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 March 2019

TV boxes, electrical sockets and hair dryer holders were all used to hide small cameras.

Four men have been accused of installing spy cameras in motel rooms, in South Korea, to live stream guests engaging in sexual acts. The cameras were found in 42 rooms in 30 accommodations in 10 cities, with 1,600 victims reported. There is no evidence linking the businesses to the crimes.

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Two of the men are in custody, while the remaining two are being investigated for their roles in the illicit operation. TV boxes, electrical sockets and hair dryer holders were all used to hide small cameras. According to the Cyber Investigation Department at the National Police Agency, the footage was streamed online to a site with over 4,000 members.

The police stated that the service brought in revenue of US$6,000 in about four months, with almost 100 of the members paying a monthly fee of US$44.95 for extra features. One of the features includes the ability to replay the non-consensual footage.

The epidemic of spreading spycam videos across South Korea, which is referred to as "molka," largely involves female victims and male perpetrators. However, in this specific case, about half of the victims recorded were men.

The videos are distributed through private sites and forums and sometimes go as far as identifying the women through personal information or pictures of their faces, which can make victims targets for further harassment.

Search queries on the forums show thousands of individual threads with tags like 'schoolgirl,' which show material of young women in school uniforms being secretly filmed.

From 2012 to 2017, reports of illicit filming spiked from 2,400 to over 6,400. The severity of the problem led tens of thousands of women across the country to march in protest and demand government response, in 2018. The protests, which dovetailed from the #MeToo movement, operated under the slogan "My Life is Not Your Porn."

The protests received some government response, although critics say it is not enough. Two months after the demonstration, the government said it would allocate US$4.5 million to fund increased monitoring of public restrooms and changing areas. A special team of women officers was assembled to regularly inspect the city's approximately 20,000 public restrooms, searching specifically for hidden filming equipment.

Despite the government's actions, many people say the 'superficial' solution misses the point of a widespread societal problem, while victims feel law enforcement does not take their claims seriously.

While the filming and distribution of illegal videos are punishable by up to 5 years in prison, only 5% of the perpetrators serve actual jail time.  According to the Korean Women Lawyers Association, those convicted typically receive fines or suspended sentences.

As a result, victims have turned to companies to assist with scrubbing the internet of explicit images taken and/or distributed without their consent.

Lee Ji-soo, a computer specialist known as a "digital undertaker", says her company has witnessed a significant increase in demand since the 2018 protests.

In some cases, victims are targeted, harassed and even filmed in their homes through windows.

Carrie Goldberg, a U.S. attorney specializing in cases of sexual harassment and revenge porn, says "the impact varies from person to person, but we’ve seen people that feel they aren’t safe anywhere, that they can’t trust anyone and that something (their privacy) has been ripped away for others’ sick gratification.”

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