Operator of massive porn ring won't be jailed during second trial

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Operator of massive porn ring won't be jailed during second trial

Son Jong-woo, third from left, is questioned by reporters after exiting a court hearing for a detention warrant, which was denied on Monday evening. Son is a convicted distributor of child pornography. [YONHAP]

Son Jong-woo, third from left, is questioned by reporters after exiting a court hearing for a detention warrant, which was denied on Monday evening. Son is a convicted distributor of child pornography. [YONHAP]

 
A Seoul court on Monday turned down an arrest warrant for Son Jong-woo, who was previously convicted of running the biggest child pornography website on the internet.
 
The Seoul Central District Court ruled that Son, 24, is unlikely to flee or dispose of evidence, and allowed him to remain free while undergoing a trial on charges of document forgery and concealing profits obtained from criminal activities.  
 
Son was released in July after serving an 18-month sentence for possession and distribution of child pornography. He was the operator of the website “Welcome to Video,” identified by the U.S. Justice Department as the “largest child sexual exploitation market by volume of content," containing over 250,000 sexually explicit videos of minors, some of whom were toddlers.  
 
Son was separately indicted by federal prosecutors in the United States, who filed an extradition request so that he could be tried in an American court on child pornography charges.
 
To prevent his extradition, Son’s father in May filed a criminal complaint against his own son on the allegations Son had created a cryptocurrency account in his father’s name and concealed his criminal proceeds through the account.  
 
His father also filed a defamation lawsuit against Son, claiming that the youth tarnished his grandmother’s reputation by paying for her medical expenses with his criminal earnings.
 
The idea was that should Son be convicted on the charge and jailed in Korea, the principle of double jeopardy would prevent him from being extradited to the United States for the crime.  
 
But before Son was indicted by prosecutors over the allegations, a Seoul court in July denied the U.S. extradition request, citing the fact that Son was needed in Korea to continue a criminal investigation into his child pornography website.
 
Legal analysts were divided on the latest court ruling, with some noting the decision was in line with the fact that there are very few precedents in Korea of a suspect being detained on the charge of hiding criminal proceeds.  
 
Others, however, claimed the court failed to take into account in its decision that the charges stemmed from suspicions that Son’s family had tried to exploit the legal system to prevent his extradition.
 
“Son effectively was not sent to the United States because his father filed criminal charges against him, and [Son] should have been punished accordingly for his crimes,” said one former prosecutor, who requested anonymity.
 
“[The court] appears to have applied the law too mechanically.”
 
Unsurprisingly the decision generated intense backlash on social media in Korea, where people once again slammed the country’s justice system for what they claimed was a tendency to be lenient toward serious sex offenders.  
 
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK, YI WOO-LIM   [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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