New measures crack down on digital sex crimes

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New measures crack down on digital sex crimes

The Korean government on Thursday announced new measures to crack down on a growing number of digital sex crimes in the country by strengthening punishments for both producers and consumers of illegal pornography alike.

In a press conference at the Central Government Complex in central Seoul, Noh Hyeong-ouk, minister of the Office for Government Policy Coordination, said a task force encompassing 11 different ministries finalized a “comprehensive set of measures” to fight an onslaught of new forms of sexual crimes in the digital sphere.

The measures primarily serve to address widespread public concern over digital sex crimes owing to the infamous “Nth room” trafficking ring.

Suspects in the case, allegedly led by 24-year-old Cho Ju-bin, are believed to have run a cartel that blackmailed what could be over a hundred victims into providing sexually explicit and degrading photographs and videos of themselves, which were then sold to members on chat rooms on the Telegram messaging app in exchange for cryptocurrency.

Up to 10 laws will be revised to accommodate these new measures, which mainly concern strengthening punishment for those involved in the production, sale and purchase of pornographic material linked to criminal activities.

While no specifics were given as to how much sentencing guidelines will change for such crimes, Noh stressed sufficient changes will be made to restore public faith in judicial review over such crimes, which he said had been tarnished by past sentences that did not meet public expectations.

The measures announced Thursday follow the state prosecution service’s own plans formalized earlier this month in which the agency said it would toughen sentencing recommendations for suspects involved in serious digital sex crimes.

According to the Justice Ministry, Cho may be liable to be sentenced under these new measures to the maximum sentence possible - life imprisonment.

Particular attention has been placed on cracking down on pornography that victimizes minors. The act of producing such content will no longer be subject to any statute of limitations, according to Noh.

Anyone who purchases or merely just possesses such content will also receive tougher punishment, Noh added. This appears to address concerns that the participants in the Nth room chat room, who may number up to 15,000, may not be adequately penalized.

The government will also create a new conspiracy charge specifically for digital sex crimes that allows punishment for suspects who conspire in such acts even if they haven’t yet committed them. In Cho’s case, prosecutors believe he and his co-conspirators ran a systematic operation in which they took up different roles to operate the chat rooms. Members who took part in running the chat rooms without directly being involved in making the pornographic content will presumably be charged under these new guidelines.

The parameters of what content constitutes as digital sex crime pornography has also been expanded. Existing definitions only applied to photographs or videos captured without the consent of the person depicted, but will now also include material concerning victims under duress.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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