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Korea’s biggest porn site gets shut down

Apr 08,2016
Police announced Thursday that a major overseas server for Soranet, the largest pornographic website in Korea, has been shut down for the first time, disabling access to the site.

Korean and Dutch authorities began a joint investigation in January into the illegal website’s overseas server in the Netherlands and successfully shut it down on April 1. Korean authorities also booked without detention 62 people, including prostitution and gambling industry advertisers, gamblers, Soranet’s blog website managers and members who uploaded pornographic content to the blog.

Soranet is the largest pornographic website in Korea where users can freely upload and share pornography, including content taken with hidden cameras, so-called revenge porn (where people upload videos or photos of their former partners) and videos of orgies. The number of hidden-camera footage uploads from 2001 alone amounts to roughly 41,400.

The website launched in 1999 under the name Sora’s Guide, and changed its name to Soranet in 2003. Police estimate there to be as many as 1 million users, and that the website’s owners have raked in as much as 10 billion won ($8.6 million).

The rampant spread of pornography on the website has led to cases of serious victimization, the most recent case concerning the hidden-camera footage, which went viral last summer, of women showering in a water park shower room.

The domain of the website, sora.net, was blocked by authorities from 2004, but Soranet continually changed its web address every 10 days or less, posting the new website address on its Twitter page.

The Korea Communications Commission shut down as many as 200 of these addresses since 2008, but the site’s owners managed to evade a complete shutdown by basing its servers in Japan and later in the United States.

When Korean and U.S. authorities began to co-investigate Soranet’s server in the United States last March, its owners then began using servers at site points across Europe.

The servers that authorities said they shut down in the Netherlands on Thursday constituted 120 terabytes of content.

Soranet’s official website states that it is currently under construction.

Police suspect Soranet’s owners may have backed up its servers elsewhere, and that they may soon reopen the website. Authorities added that in such a case, they will be conducting international cooperative investigations to shut the servers down again and trace the owners to arrest them.

Once the apprehended servers are transferred to Korea, police will inspect them for data to help in the arrest of website members who have uploaded pornography. Authorities added that members who have not uploaded materials will not be punished by law.


BY CHO EUN-AE, SOHN GUK-HEE, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]


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