“My Life is Not Your Porn”: Digital Sex Crimes in South Korea

Widespread internet posting in South Korea of sexual images of women and girls without their consent is having a devastating impact on the victims. The government should be doing more to prevent and respond to these digital sex crimes. Despite legal reforms in South Korea, women and girls targeted in digital sex crimes – acts of online and tech-enabled gender-based violence – face significant difficulty in pursuing criminal cases and civil remedies, in part due to entrenched gender inequity. Digital sex crimes are crimes involving digital images – almost always of women and girls – that are captured without the victim’s consent, shared nonconsensually, or sometimes manipulated or faked


Soundbites from the Survey:
“A Korean man took pictures of me…and posted them on porn sites.”
“My face was attached to a naked body of a woman that I don’t know.”
“Someone impersonated me.”
“He masqueraded as a friend.”
“My boyfriend.”
“An acquaintance.”
“A stranger.”

My boss put a spycam in my room.

Ye-rin is one of tens of thousands of women in South Korea, who have been the target of digital sex crimes. Digital sex crimes are a form of gender-based violence. They can be images that are taken non-consensually with hidden cameras and sometimes shared, taken with consent but shared non-consensually, or images that have been manipulated or faked.

I was working pleasantly for five or six years in a place and had good relations. But then even though my boss was married he started flirting with me…He gave me a gift. It was a very small clock…The light annoyed me, so I kept moving it. But every time I moved the clock, he called me…I found it strange, so I googled the clock and found it was a special kind.

Many of the women targeted in digital sex crimes are filmed with hidden cameras, or “spycams.” These tiny cameras are used to capture images in spaces like toilets and changing rooms, which are then often shared and even sold online, where they become difficult to track and erase.

The clock streamed to a linked smartphone… It had been streaming for a month or a month and a half… … After I googled it, I called him. I said, “This is not an ordinary clock,” and he confessed. He said, “Is that the thing you stayed up all night to google?” That means he was watching me… I filed a criminal case. It took four hours just for the interrogation… For example, I was asked, “Have you ever done anything that the man shouldn’t see?” It’s kind of very private questions… Victims of that kind of case are not informed when a hearing or ruling will happen, and you are not invited. I kept checking the website for the court date and I went every time… No one ever talked to me about what would happen with the case, the potential sentence, etcetera.

A series of protests against government inaction on digital sex crimes in 2018 helped drive some reforms to provide services to survivors and hold perpetrators accountable. But the measures didn’t go far enough. Police often turn survivors away. Prosecutors often drop cases. Judges frequently let perpetrators off with a fine. And the government is not doing enough to support survivors or change misogynistic attitudes that encourage digital sex crimes.

I cried all night. I couldn’t sleep. I took medicine to calm myself. What happened took place in my own room—so sometimes, in my daily life, I feel terrified without reason.

The South Korean government should listen to survivors of digital sex crimes …

Soundbites from the Survey:
“I worry about hidden cameras whenever I use public restrooms.”
“I don’t feel free to get around.”
“I have insomnia.”
“I wanted to die.”
“I can’t go out with a Korean man.”
“I’m leaving the country.”

The government should take immediate action to increase access to services for survivors and provide them with compensation and justice. The government should also do more to prevent these crimes, by teaching children and adults about gender equality, consent, and how to be safe and empowered online.


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