Jail for co-founder of South Korea's biggest porn site, which carried thousands of 'spycam' recordings

Jail for co-founder of South Korea's biggest porn site, which carried thousands of 'spycam' recordings
Protesters at a rally against "spycam porn" in central Seoul on August 4, 2018.
PHOTO: AFP

The female co-founder of South Korea's largest porn site has been jailed following months of mounting public fury over the spread of secretly filmed spycam pornography.

Tens of thousands of women have rallied in recent months against the growing phenomenon of spycam videos, known in Korean as molka, which mostly involve men filming women without their consent in toilets, changing rooms and in public.

Soranet - which had more than a million users until it was shut down in 2016 amid widespread outrage - carried thousands of such clips among reams of other X-rated content.

Producing and circulating all forms of pornography is illegal in South Korea.

The site's female owner, surnamed Song, was sentenced to four years in prison and fined 1.4 billion won (US$1.25 million) on Wednesday for aiding and abetting the distribution of obscene material, including sex videos featuring minors.

South Korean women protest against secretly-filmed spycam pornography in Seoul on June 9, 2018. Photo: AFP

The 45-year-old, who founded Soranet in 1999 with her husband and two others, "seriously damaged and distorted people's universal dignity and value", said a court statement. She had "enjoyed huge profit" from the site, it added.

Song had lived as a fugitive in New Zealand for years but was arrested in June when she returned to Seoul after authorities annulled her passport. Her husband and another couple known to be co-owners of the site - all of whom have Australian citizenship or permanent residency - remain overseas.

Spycam crimes reported to South Korean police surged from around 1,100 in 2010 to more than 6,500 in 2017, with many of the videos shared or sold online.

According to official statistics, about 98 per cent of offenders are men - from teachers and professors to pastors and police officers - while more than 80 per cent of victims are women.

A member of Seoul city's "hidden camera-hunting" squad and a policewoman inspect a women's bathroom stall to find "spycams" at a museum in Seoul on August 18, 2016. Photo: AFP

Despite South Korea's ban on pornography, many videos are widely consumed on servers based in foreign countries, or secretly downloaded on file-sharing sites.

The country has been experiencing a wave of protests against sexual harassment since the #MeToo movement began in January 2018.

In a separate case on Wednesday, a man who was accused of molesting a popular YouTube personality and leaking semi-nude pictures of her online was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

YouTuber Yang Ye-won revealed in a video she was sexually abused by a group of men during an audition to be a lingerie model in 2015.

In October, a court found a man guilty of harassing K-pop singer Seolhyun from girl band AOA with "sexually humiliating" messages and videos on Instagram.

He sent the singer "sexually offensive things repeatedly, and the level of obscenity was over the top", said the judge in a ruling statement, the Korea Times reported.

The man was ordered to receive 40 hours of anti-sexual crime education and banned from landing a job dealing with children and teenagers for five years.

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