Owner of largest porn site in Korea arrested

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Owner of largest porn site in Korea arrested

On Jan. 3, two detectives from the police cyber bureau raided the office of a judicial scrivener in Incheon and arrested a 34-year-old man, surnamed Chung, for operating a pornography website.

Chung was arrested for violating laws that prohibit the sexual abuse of children, as some of the content on his site involved minors, and for allowing brothels, which are illegal, to advertise on his site.

Chung’s coworkers, with whom he had been working for more than three years, were in shock to see their colleague had been running Ggulbam (Honey Night), the largest Korean pornographic site after Sora.net was closed down.

Chung was immediately transported to Busan. On Jan. 5, he was imprisoned for taking 1.5 billion won ($1.3 million) in revenue, which he made through advertising expenses paid by brothels and gambling sites. Chung was found to have made over 70 million won a month.

Chung was a hard-working judicial scrivener, or notary public, by day, helping people with commercial and real estate registration procedures, and the manager of an illegal pornographic website by night.

Investigators were even more surprised to find that Chung had not only been brought up by parents who served in the civil service, but that he was a model student with top grades in high school.

Chung had no previous criminal record.

According to police, Chung’s grades in high school were high enough to get him into medical school at Korea’s most prestigious universities, such as Seoul National University or Yonsei University.

But Chung suffered from severe social anxiety disorder, which eventually caused him to drop out of high school in 2000.

In 2013, Chung took the qualification exam to become a judicial scrivener. Although he made over 6 million won a month, he was not satisfied. That was when he found out that Sora.net, then the largest pornographic website in Korea, made billions of won by advertising brothels.

In June of that year, he created Ggulbam and hired six people to run the business. Ggulbam now has more than 420,000 members.

Chung paid the six employees a monthly salary around 3 to 5 million won to post pornographic videos to the site.

One employee, a 35-year-old insurance planner, even posted a video of himself having intercourse with a woman without her knowing she was being filmed.

When police started a full-on investigation into Sora.net last January, members of the site moved to Ggulbam to avoid legal charges.

Chung, as a way of popularizing his website, held a monthly contest in which thousands of members posted videos of themselves having intercourse with their girlfriends and wives in the hopes of winning the prize money of two million won.

Chung made 70 million won a month from 458 brothels. Over 14 months, he made 1.5 billion won. Investigators assumed Chung was neither married nor had a girlfriend because he was too focused on his website.

“Chung chose to run a pornographic website to make money, but it was actually close to being an obsession,” said Choi Ho-joon, chief inspector at the Busan police cyber bureau.

Chung had been careful to take steps to avoid being caught. He received ad charges only through bitcoin and contacted brothel owners through online telegrams or a communication system within the website, neither of which left any trace.

Burner phones were used to keep in contact with his employees, and he had about 40 bank accounts under false names. Also, the website’s server was based in the Unites States.

Nevertheless, police tracked down Chung’s IP address, but omitted him from the suspect list because the address was that of a judicial scrivener. At first, police assumed it was unlikely that a man of such a profession would commit a crime.

But then investigators looked into transactions of the 30 bank accounts linked to the site and found surveillance camera footage of Chung withdrawing a large sum of money from one of the accounts.

“I think he asked details of our investigation so as not to make the same mistake again,” said inspector Choi. “There’s a 99 percent chance that he’ll repeat his crime, because his offense only gets him a maximum of three years in prison and his past will lure him back into making a big amount of money.”

Police also arrested the person who developed the program for the website. The other five employees were indicted without detention.

BY LEE EUN-JI [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]

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