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Arrests over hotel spycam porn ring that filmed 1,600 guests across South Korea

The Guardian logo The Guardian 21/03/2019 Justin McCurry
a group of people sitting on a bench: South Korean women protest against sexism and hidden camera pornography in Seoul. Two people have been arrested over a hotel spycam porn scheme. © Getty Images South Korean women protest against sexism and hidden camera pornography in Seoul. Two people have been arrested over a hotel spycam porn scheme.

Police in South Korea have arrested two men for secretly filming 1,600 hotel guests and streaming the footage live online, in the latest voyeurism scandal to hit the country.

The suspects, who have not been named, set up secret cameras in 42 rooms at 30 hotels in 10 South Korean cities between November last year and the start of this month, media reports said.

The arrests come a week after singer and TV celebrity Jung Joon-young admitted he had secretly filmed himself having sex with women and sharing the footage online without their consent.

Female protesters call for South Korea's government to crack down on widespread spycam porn crimes during a rally in Seoul. © Getty Female protesters call for South Korea's government to crack down on widespread spycam porn crimes during a rally in Seoul.

Jung said he had shared footage of several women in a group chatroom whose members allegedly included Seungri, a K-pop star who is facing allegations that he ran an illegal prostitution ring out of Seoul nightclubs. Seungri has retired and vowed to clear his name.

The suspects in the latest case went to extraordinary lengths to install the cameras, the cyber investigation unit at the Seoul metropolitan police agency alleged.

Mini-cameras with 1mm lenses were found in digital boxes, hair dryer holders and wall sockets. More than 800 illegally filmed videos were livestreamed via a server based overseas. Female protesters call for South Korea's government to crack down on widespread spycam porn crimes during a rally in Seoul. © Getty Female protesters call for South Korea's government to crack down on widespread spycam porn crimes during a rally in Seoul.

By the time the site was taken down this month, the suspects had earned 7m won ($6,200 USD) from 97 people who paid a monthly fee to access the material, the Korea Herald said.

Two other men are being investigated in connection with the allegations.

Police said there was no evidence the hotels were aware that their guests were being filmed without their knowledge. Female protesters call for South Korea's government to crack down on widespread spycam porn crimes during a rally in Seoul. © Getty Female protesters call for South Korea's government to crack down on widespread spycam porn crimes during a rally in Seoul.

South Korea is battling an epidemic of molka – secretly filmed videos of a sexual nature that target women in public places such as toilets and changing rooms, but also in their own homes.

The rise in cases prompted tens of thousands of women to take to the streets of Seoul last summer to demand longer sentences for perpetrators. The authorities responded by increasing patrols of the city’s public toilets – a measure campaigners say is ineffective.

Police reported 6,470 cases of illegal filming in 2017, compared with 1,353 cases in 2012, the national police agency said. But many offenders are ordered to pay modest fines and in most cases the crime goes unpunished. Female protesters call for South Korea's government to crack down on widespread spycam porn crimes during a rally in Seoul. © Getty Female protesters call for South Korea's government to crack down on widespread spycam porn crimes during a rally in Seoul.

The hotel spycam suspects face up to five years in prison and a heavy fine for distributing illegal videos. “The police agency strictly deals with criminals who post and share illegal videos as they severely harm human dignity,” a Seoul police agency official told the Korea Herald.

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