South Korean “The Nth Room”: Digital Sex Offenses Sprawls Along Social Media

What is “the Nth room”?

After K-pop stars being accused of “sex bribery” in 2019, another sex crime scandal has recently shocked South Korea. The main suspect was Cho Ju-bin, a 24-year-old man with the nickname “doctor. ” He created an online chatting group called “the Nth room,” and blackmailed girls for sharing sex videos. There are at least 74 victims, or “virtual enslavements,” including girls even under 16. According to the Korea Cyber Sexual Violence Response Center, digital sex crime involves at least 260,000 users.

Why these underage girls are coercive?

Korean newspaper Kookmin Ilbo reported, each of the eight “Nth rooms” hosted videos from three to four girls. In the beginning, room owners selected girls being active on chat apps and engaging in prostitution or sexting for money. Then they pretended to be the police and elicited the information of these girls. From that moment, hell came. Victims kept following the escalating requirements, performing grotesque sexual acts and self-harm. Otherwise, room owners would release the privacy of these girls publicly. One school girl spoke to Kim Hyun Jung on South Korea’s CBS radio: “He already had my face, my voice, my personal information. I was afraid that he would threaten me with that information if I said I would quit.”

In terms of different consuming amounts, “the Nth room” runs a membership system. The criminal group has earned up to 1.5 million Korean won ($1,200). Viewers also share extorted content and spy-camera images of female acquaintances, and these work as a permit for them to remain longer in “the Nth room.” Thus, the vicious cycle could be like how a snowball gathers as it rolls, catching increasing innocent victims. Since girls’ names and addresses were uploaded in “the Nth room,” one user even live-streamed himself raping one girl after luring her to a motel room.

How do people and the government respond?

The large-scale digital sexual abuse violates the security and privacy of children and women. After exposure, it rapidly triggers a nationwide outcry. Over 2.3 million people have signed a petition on the presidential Blue House website. They call for authorities to publicly name and reveal the face of the criminals. “If the judicial system gives priority to the evil person, then what about poor victims and frightened females? Without knowing the identity of over 260,000 users, we can’t stop suspecting any man.” One outraged “netizen” complained anonymously.

President Moon Jae-in regarded the chat rooms as a “cruel act that destroyed lives.” He declared the police would lead strict investigations. However, long-term weak enforcement towards digital sexual crimes left Korea unable to respond properly. Similarly, Laura Biscker, the Seoul correspondent of BBC, expressed what she sees and hears: “Over and over again women have told me they feel the justice system does not adequately punish sex crimes and does not act as a deterrent. And over and over again tens of thousands of women have urged the current administration to act.” Data from the government shows between 2015 to 2018, the police arrested 3,439 people for creating and distributing child-related porn. However, only 80 of them received jail sentences.

The current dilemma of teenager sex education in Korea

In recent years, the sexual offense is showing an increasing trend of lower-aged in Korea. “Follow my social media account, and I will post pictures of my mother’s buttock. ” In May 2019, taking candid photos of mothers emerged among Korean primary school students. Thus, lacking sex education results in a toxic culture, negatively affecting millions of young generation.

“We prepared nearly everything to not get raped. My dad put me in martial arts. My mom gives me knives and pepper spray. Society tells us never to walk alone at night. But you know what would be better? If we just taught young boys that rape is not even an option.” A blogger appealed in her video and emphasized the significance of teaching boys to respect women.

Yuexin Li
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