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Public criticizes revenge porn law

Koo Ha-ra case reveals lack of punishment if tapes aren’t distributed

Oct 10,2018
More than 222,000 people have signed a petition asking authorities to strengthen the punishment for the possession of revenge porn, regardless of whether it has been distributed, after singer Koo Ha-ra’s ex-boyfriend was accused of blackmailing her with a sex tape.

“Imprisoning a suspect after the video has been leaked does not prevent another similar case from happening,” wrote a user on the Blue House petition website last Thursday. “The authorities must imprison Choi and investigate all other suspects in similar cases who possess revenge pornography.”

The petition gained 222,351 signatures in five days. The Blue House is required to respond to any petition that gains more than 200,000 signatures.

The case involving Koo and her ex-boyfriend, a hairdresser named Choi Jong-beom, first broke last month.

The two allegedly got into a fight at her home in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, on Sept. 13. Choi called the police that night and accused Koo of assaulting him when he told her he wanted to break up with her, according to the Gangnam Police Precinct.

On Sept. 16, Choi gave the Chosun Ilbo pictures of his face, showing two very large cuts. He claimed the fight was one-sided, with Koo attacking him.

Koo did not respond to the accusations until Sept. 17, when she spoke to Dispatch, a local news outlet. She refuted Choi’s claim that the fight was one-sided, providing photos of her scars. She said Choi was often emotionally abusive towards her after he found out that she had spent time with another man for work.

Koo said she was out with her manager and another male associate to discuss a future photo shoot over lunch on Sept. 10. She said that Choi found out that she was with another man and that’s why he came to her house on Sept. 13.

After Koo’s interview went public on Sept. 17, Choi showed up at the Gangnam Police Precinct voluntarily to answer police questions. Koo was questioned by police on Sept. 18.

The case evolved a step further when Koo told Dispatch on Thursday that Choi had sent her videos of the two having sexual intercourse and had threatened to release them. Koo said that the videos had been taken without her consent or awareness. She reported Choi to the police on grounds of blackmail and sexual assault.

Choi refuted this claim Friday. His lawyer spoke to Newsis, a local news outlet, and said Choi had sent the videos to Koo “as a keepsake” and that they were taken because Koo had insisted on taking them in the first place.

In their ongoing investigation, police searched Choi’s home, workplace and car and confiscated his phone and a USB drive. They plan to summon Choi for further questioning.

The Act on Special Cases Concerning the Punishment, etc. of Sexual Crimes states that a “person who takes photos of another person’s body, which may cause any sexual stimulus or shame against the latter’s will, by using a camera or similar mechanism, or who distributes, sells, leases, provides, or openly exhibits or screens the photos so taken, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than five years or by a fine not exceeding ten million won [$8,808].”

Even if Choi’s argument that Koo had insisted on taking the video stands, the law still states that, “Even though taking photos … was not against the will of the person photographed at the time of taking such photos, a person who distributes, sells, leases, provides, or openly exhibits or screens any photos of the former’s body so taken, against the former’s will, thereafter, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than three years or by a fine not exceeding five million won.”

Choi claimed that he has not sent the videos anywhere but to Koo.

The petition to the Blue House is, in essence, calling for disciplinary action not only on the distribution of revenge porn, but also on the action of blackmailing someone with possession of it.

Some experts agree.

“The Act on Special Cases Concerning the Punishment, etc. of Sexual Crimes was established 20 years ago and should be updated,” said Seo Seung-hee, director of the Korea Cyber Sexual Violence Response Center, a nongovernmental organization that supports victims of threats involving revenge porn and other forms of sexual assault online.

“Victims suffer tremendous pain in just knowing that someone holds a sex video of them and can distribute it whenever he or she wants,” Seo said. “But with the law as it is today, the suspects who possess revenge porn of victims and threaten them are not punished for sex crimes but merely for blackmail.”

BY ESTHER CHUNG and HONG JI-YU [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]


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