Sat, Aug 04, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Spy-cam porn spurs record Seoul rallies

AFP, SEOUL

Even a record heatwave will not keep Claire Lee from joining tens of thousands of South Korean women at a mass protest today against secretly filmed spy-cam pornography as anger over the issue swells, prompting national soul-searching.

Since May, the monthly demonstration in Seoul has shattered records to become the biggest-ever women’s protest in South Korea, where the global #MeToo movement has unleashed an unprecedented wave of female-led activism.

The target of their fury: So-called molka, or spy-cam videos, which largely involve men secretly filming women in schools, offices, trains, toilets and changing rooms, and which are so prevalent they make headlines on a daily basis.

“Entering a public bathroom is such an unnerving experience these days,” Lee said, adding that she always looked around the walls to see if there were any “suspicious holes.”

“You never know if there’s a spy-cam lens hidden inside ... filming you while you pee,” the 21-year-old student told reporters, adding that she sometimes stabbed the holes with a pen to shatter any secret lenses, or stuffed tissue paper inside them.

The statistics are startling, with the number of spy-cam crimes reported to police surging from about 1,100 in 2010 to more than 6,500 last year.

The offenders have included school teachers, professors, doctors, church pastors, government officials, police officers and even a court judge. In some cases, the victims’ own boyfriends or relatives were responsible for the crimes, in a troubling reflection of South Korea’s deep-rooted patriarchal norms.

Fed up of living in fear, women are fighting back.

More than 55,000 attended last month’s protest in Seoul, according to its organizers, although police put the attendance at about 20,000.

“The pent-up anger among women has finally reached a boiling point,” said one of the protest organizers, who only identified herself as Ellin.

Asia’s fourth-largest economy takes pride in its tech prowess, from ultra-fast Internet to cutting-edge smartphones.

However, these advances have also given rise to an army of tech-savvy Peeping Toms, with videos widely shared in Internet chat rooms and on file-sharing sites, or used as ads for Web sites promoting prostitution.

Although all manufacturers of smartphones sold in South Korea are required to ensure their devices make a loud shutter noise when taking photographs — a move designed to curb covert filming — many offenders use special apps that mute the sound, or turn to high-tech spy cameras hidden inside eyeglasses, lighters, watches, car keys and even neckties.

Justice is rarely served — most offenders are fined or given suspended jail terms, which many women’s rights groups decry as a mere slap on the wrist, except in the rare cases where the perpetrator is female and the victim male, campaigners have said.

The arrest in May of a woman who secretly filmed a male model posing nude at a Seoul art college was a catalyst for the unprecedented protests this summer.

“The police have rarely responded when countless female victims asked for the immediate arrest of the offender,” said Seo Seung-hui, head of the nonprofit Korea Cyber Sexual Violence Response Center.

In the woman’s case, she was paraded in front of TV cameras while police raided her home to search for evidence.

Authorities even launched a probe targeting those who shamed the male model online in an uncharacteristically swift response.

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