Pornography charge hits Kakao CEO

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Pornography charge hits Kakao CEO

Daum Kakao co-CEO Lee Sirgoo, head of the country’s largest messenger application operator, was summoned by the Daejeon police on Wednesday on charges that he allegedly failed to protect minors from graphic content and pornography.

It is the first time the head of a local online service provider has been charged with breaching the Act on the Protection of Children and Juveniles from Sexual Abuse on pornography allegations.

Lee arrived at the Daejeon Metropolitan Police Agency on Wednesday around 7 p.m. with two of his lawyers, telling reporters that he would “faithfully perform my duties in the police probe.”

The police had informed reporters earlier in the day that Lee had requested to postpone his appearance with investigators, after news leaked in the press that he would be summoned.

The 48-year-old was questioned over suspicions that he failed to take preventive measures to block or delete pornographic material that could potentially be seen or shared by young children and teenagers in Kakao Group, police said.

Korean law stipulates that violators can be sentenced to up to three years in prison or fined up to 20 million won (about $18,000).

Kakao Group refers to group chat rooms in Kakao Talk, the most popular messenger application in Korea.

Lee led Kakao Corporation, the original operator of Kakao Talk, until early October before it merged with Daum Communications Corporation, Korea’s second-largest portal company.

The case dates back to July when the police began an investigation into a 20-year-old, only identified by the surname Jeon, for creating a chat room on Kakao Talk and disseminating lurid pictures and videos. That chat room alone was reportedly accessed by approximately 10,000 Kakao Talk users, 84 percent of whom were minors, including elementary and middle school students, police said. The users were also caught sharing material they generated themselves.

Two Daum Kakao employees were previously summoned for questioning and Lee was also called as a witness last month. A Daejeon police officer vowed to enforce tough penalties on the involved parties, adding that those who illegally circulated the material and the service company that allowed the distribution must be held accountable.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [selee@joongang.co.kr]



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