Teen Telegram co-conspirator is indictedAn 18-year-old co-conspirator of a high-profile digital sexual exploitation ring was indicted on Wednesday for allegedly producing and distributing sexual abuse material featuring women and girls.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said it referred Kang Hun for trial after indicting him on charges of acting as an accessory to the operation of the “Baksa” chat room on the messaging service Telegram, which allowed paid members to view illegally taken content of violent sex acts.
Kang is accused of having recruited and managed paid members of the Baksa (Korean for “doctor”) room, producing and distributing material depicting sexual abuse and delivering criminal proceeds worth about 26.4 million won ($21,600) to its suspected founder, Cho Ju-bin.
Specifically, Kang is suspected of blackmailing 18 female victims, including seven minors, into producing sexual material between September and November last year for distribution and sale via Baksa room. He allegedly swindled 10 million won out of one of his victims by pretending to be a court judge.
Cho, a 24-year-old, has been indicted for allegedly blackmailing women into providing sexual videos to the illegal Telegram chat room. At least 25 people, including eight underage girls, have been confirmed to be exploited by Cho.
Kang drew extensive media attention in the middle of last month, when the police disclosed his full name, age and face while transferring him to the custody of prosecutors for further investigation and indictment.
Kang was forced to stand in front of the public on April 17, marking the first time in Korea that the police have made public the identity of a minor criminal suspect. The current law permits the disclosure of the identity of sex offenders but grants exceptions for minors. Kang, born in 2001, was a high school student last year when he allegedly worked for Cho.
Prosecutors said they will determine later whether to formally apply the charge of organizing a criminal group to Cho, Kang and other accomplices. Cho and 13 of his co-conspirators have so far been booked on the charge of organizing a criminal group, which can be punishable with a maximum of life imprisonment, while 23 paid Baksa room members have been booked for joining and operating in a criminal group.
The nation has been shocked by a string of sexual exploitation cases centered on group chat rooms of the Telegram messenger service, including Baksa room, prompting the government to announce new tougher measures on digital sex crimes on April 23.
The authorities vowed to push to punish buyers, advertisers and possessors of child and minor sexual abuse material, as well as their producers and sellers, and to treat any production of digital sexual materials as a felony.
Two more co-conspirators of Cho’s appeared before court on Wednesday to attend their pre-trial detention warrant hearing.
The two suspects, identified only as men aged 24 and 29, are accused of delivering money from Cho’s fraud victims, including Sohn Suk-hee, president of cable channel JTBC, and former Gwangju Mayor Yoon Janghyun, to the Baksa room founder.
The two men are also suspected of converting cryptocurrencies paid by Baksa room members into cash and delivering the money to Cho.
The duo are additionally charged with helping Cho in his online scams, in which they defrauded about 30 people attempting to buy drugs after falsely touting drug sales on Telegram.