In Depth

Molka: South Korea’s voyeurism problem

Authorities arrest two men over secret spycam filming of 1,600 guests in hotel rooms

Authorities in South Korea have arrested two men and are investigating a further two over a spycam website that live-streamed footage of hundreds of hotel guests without their knowledge.

The men hid 1mm lens cameras in items including hairdryer holders and wall sockets in 42 rooms at 30 hotels in ten cities across the country,  reports CNN. A total of about 800 videos of couples having sex were then streamed online for customers who paid a monthly fee to watch, over a period of about five months, according to a report on the South China Morning Post site.

The arrests follow recent allegations that K-Pop sensation Seungri was a member of a chat group that shared sex videos secretly recorded by singer Jung Joon-young without the consent of the women involved.

The incidents are part of a widespread problem “known as ‘molka’ - which is the secret filming of women in public places such as toilets and changing rooms, but sometimes even in their own homes”, says The Verge.

Last summer, tens of thousands of women protested on the streets of Seoul over the growing trend, which saw 6,470 cases reported in 2017 alone, up from 1,353 in 2012. The outcry began “after a woman was arrested for secretly photographing a male colleague as he modelled nude for university art students”, says the BBC.

Female protestors claimed police immediately detained the woman because the victim was male, whereas incidents involving female victims rarely result in prosecution.

“A deep-seated sexism lies behind the incredibly unbalanced numbers between men and women regarding this crime,” one of the protest organisers, who did not wish to be named, told The Guardian. “The problem is aggravated by the uncooperative attitude of the police and the light penalties given out by the courts.”

The country’s president, Moon Jae-in, said last year that illegal spycam images had become “a part of daily life” and called for tougher penalties for perpetrators.

Offenders face a fine of up to 10m won (£6,800) or a maximum prison sentence of up to five years, but campaigners say few feel the full force of the law. Many offenders “are ordered to pay modest fines and in most cases the crime goes unpunished”, says The Guardian.

Indeed, according to official government figures, of 5,437 people arrested over the reported spy camera offences in 2017, only around 2% were charged.

South Korean police have denied claims that they fail to take women’s complaints seriously, saying that verifying allegations based on footage that often does not show the victims’ faces was very difficult.

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