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    South Korea Struggles to Fight Porn Cams Hidden in Plain Sight

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    The country is in the middle of spy camera epidemic. Massive protests are forcing the government to act.

    South Korea is in the middle of a 21st century epidemic: spy porn cams. The tiny cameras hidden in public places capture unsuspecting women as they undress at beaches and pools, and even while they use public bathrooms. The footage then, of course, goes straight to adult websites — and the demand is high.

    Thousands of South Korean women protested during July, with some 18,000 gathering in Seoul on July 7, according to NBC. The slogan "My life is not your porn" was coined as the demonstrations went on.

    The statistics behind the phenomenon are staggering: some 6,000 cases of so-called spy cam porn are filed with South Korean police each year. Last year, 5,437 suspects were taken into custody, but only 119 were sentenced to prison terms, the BBC reported.

    In response to the nationwide issue, police created specialized sweeper teams armed with high-tech gadgets to inspect toilets, dressing rooms and other public places. The teams are armed with infrared scanners designed to spot lenses, and with special electric circuitry detectors.

    ​According to a Washington Post report, a police in the province of South Gyeongsang recently received $267,000 to fight the spy cams. The sweepers have to inspect all sorts of places, such as beaches, swimming pools, hotels, music venues, shopping centers and offices.

    "Nowhere seemed to be off limits," the report reads.

    "Hospitals will ask us to do inspections," says Lee Su-hyun, a police officer from Changwon.

    Interestingly, however, despite the fact that these sweeper teams have been active across the entire nation since last September, not a single camera has been discovered yet.

    Inspector Park Gwang-Mi from Seoul, who inspected more than 1,500 toilets in the Yongsan District of the city, confirmed the difficulty of the task.

    "I'm learning how difficult it is to catch these criminals," the inspector said, according to BBC. "The [perpetrators] install the camera and take it down within 15 minutes."

    The police insist that hidden spy cameras are not really the culprit. According to the statistics reviewed by The Washington Post, some 90 percent of non-consensual porn filming is done via everyday smartphones.

    According to the BBC, nearly 90 percent of South Korean adults have smartphones, which is one of the highest figures among the world; with 93 percent of South Koreans having internet access, this is an area in which South Korea's technological prowess is backfiring.

    In May, South Korean President Moon Jae-in acknowledged that spy cams had become a "a part of daily life," while calling for tougher punishments for those caught. Right now, the punishment for distributing such content is 10 million won (about $8,900) or a prison term of one year. The punishment for filming the content is harsher, according to The Washington Post. The crime can result in perpetrators receiving up to five years in prison or a fine of approximately $9,000. However, the punishments have apparently not deterred the creepy wave of crimes.

    Fighting the websites on which illicit footage is posted is not a very useful option. Some websites reportedly say they are unaware that the content was filmed without consent, BBC reports. However, when the websites do get banned, they either simply change their names or change the website domain to a jurisdiction in another country where South Korean law enforcement cannot crack down on prosecute the crimes.

    And demand for the content remains high. One of the most notorious websites, called Soranet, reportedly had more than a million users and hosted thousands of videos filmed in public places without consent. The website's female founder was arrested in 2018 in New Zealand, following a joint operation with Interpol.

    And while the demand remains, South Korean bathrooms will remain unsafe.

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    protest, porn, hidden camera, South Korea
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