Korea mulls extradition of child porn site head

Home > National > Social Affairs

print dictionary print

Korea mulls extradition of child porn site head

A judicial process to extradite a Korean man, convicted of operating possibly the world’s largest dark net child pornography website, to the United States has started, the Ministry of Justice said Tuesday.

The Seoul High Court issued a detention warrant on Monday against Son Jong-woo, currently serving an 18-month prison term for operating the website which contained over 250,000 videos of minors being sexually exploited, allowing the Ministry of Justice to start the extradition process.

Son was arrested in March 2018 in a joint operation between the Korean police and U.S. and British authorities. His website, “Welcome to Video,” was “the largest child sexual exploitation market by volume of content,” read the U.S. Justice Department’s press release at the time. The site was operated from June 2015 until it was seized and shut down by U.S. authorities in March 2018.

Son was scheduled to complete his prison term on April 27, but the court effectively stopped his release by issuing the detention warrant.

The prosecution is set to file a motion to start an extradition hearing within three days, and the court will make a decision within two months. Once a decision is made in the extradition trial, no appeal is allowed in Korea.

If the court decides to extradite Son, the minister of justice will make a final approval to arrange the U.S. authorities to come to Korea within a month to take him.

While the Korean court has punished Son with a mere slap on the wrist, he is expected to face a far heavier punishment if he is convicted in the United States. In the initial trial, a district court convicted Son but handed down a two-year suspended prison term with three years probation, keeping him out of jail. In his High Court trial, Son was ordered to serve an 18-month prison term.

Son did not appeal to the Supreme Court, and his sentence was finalized in May last year.

According to the prosecution, Son ran the site, which had 1.28 million subscribers, from July 2015 till March 2018. Through the website, he earned over 400 million won ($325,000).

As Son’s release date approaches, the U.S. Department of Justice requested his extradition, and the Ministry of Justice is considering it. In October last year, U.S. prosecutors indicted Son on nine charges including conspiracy, money laundering and producing, advertising and distributing child pornography.

Son’s possible extradition recently gained public attention as Korea arrested more operators of online sexual exploitation businesses. Last month, a public petition was submitted to the Blue House, demanding Son’s extradition to the United States, and received over 200,000 signatures.

Even if Son is extradited and stands trial in a U.S. court, it’s unlikely he will be tried for charges linked to child pornography based on the rule of double jeopardy. The Ministry of Justice, therefore, started the extradition process for the money laundry charge. If convicted, Son will face a maximum 20-year prison term in the United States.

BY PARK KWANG-SOO, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

More in Social Affairs

As life is upended by the pandemic, inequalities deepen in Korean society

Daily cases hit 583 and aren't declining soon

Mastermind of sex abuse ring sentenced to 40 years

DP wants parliamentary probe of prosecutor general

Symposium illuminates Asian countries' responses to pandemic

Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)

What’s Popular Now