South Korean man turns 34 for running sexual exploitation chat room

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SEOUL – A South Korean man was sentenced to 34 years in prison Thursday as part of the country’s crackdown on an infamous online chat room network that was attracting young women, including minors, with promises of well-paying jobs before forcing them into pornography.

The man, Moon Hyeong-wook, opened one of the first such sites in 2015, prosecutors said. Mr Moon, 25, operated a members-only underground chat room under the nickname “GodGod” on the Telegram messaging app, offering more than 3,700 clips of illicit pornography, they said.

Mr. Moon, an architectural major who was kicked out of his college after his arrest last year, was one of the most notorious of the hundreds of people police arrested during their investigation. Another chatroom operator, a man named Cho Joo-bin, was sentenced to 40 years in prison last November.

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“The accused has inflicted irreparable damage on his victims as a result of his anti-society crime which violates human dignity,” court president Cho Soon-pyo said Thursday of Mr. Moon in his statement. decision. The trial took place in a neighborhood. court in Andong city in central South Korea.

Mr. Moon was indicted in June for forcing 21 young women, including minors, to make sexually explicit videos between 2017 and early last year.

He approached young women looking for high-paying jobs on social media platforms, then tricked them into making sexually explicit videos, promising big payouts, prosecutors said. He also hacked the online accounts of women who uploaded sexually explicit content. , posing as a police officer investigating pornography.

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Once he got his hands on the images and personal data, he used them to blackmail women, threatening to send the clips to their parents unless the victims provided more footage, said prosecutors.

Prosecutors have demanded a life sentence for Mr. Moon.

Last December, police said they investigated 3,500 suspects, mostly men in their 20s or teenagers, as part of their investigation into online chat rooms that served as a means of sexual exploitation and distribution. pornographic. They arrested 245.

Police also identified 1,100 victims.

The scandal, known in South Korea as the “Nth Room Affair”, sparked outrage over the cruel exploitation of young women. Women’s rights groups raided courthouses where chat room operators were tried, accusing judges of forgiving sex crimes by inflicting what they saw as light punishment.

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Outside the Andong courthouse on Thursday, lawyers held a rally demanding the maximum sentence for Mr. Moon.

In recent years, South Korean police have started cracking down on sexually explicit file-sharing websites as part of international efforts to combat child pornography. As smartphones proliferated, they soon realized that much of the illegal commerce was migrating to online chat rooms on messaging services like Telegram.

Police said they had difficulty locating customers in online chat rooms as they often used cryptocurrency payments to avoid getting caught.

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