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South Korea

Spy-cam porn crisis: Seoul vows to check public toilets daily

Growing outrage in South Korea as the number of hidden cameras in public bathrooms hits epidemic levels, with police identifying tens of thousands of victims

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 September, 2018, 12:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 03 September, 2018, 9:59pm

South Korea’s capital and largest city, Seoul, is to begin daily checks for hidden cameras in public toilets in response to growing public outrage over an epidemic of “spy-cam porn”.

South Korea is in the middle of a battle against videos secretly filmed in places such as toilet stalls and changing rooms. Police have said more than 26,000 victims between 2012 and 2016 have been identified, but many cases go unreported.

Mobile phones sold in the country are required to make a loud audible sound when taking photos, an attempt to discourage surreptitious recording. Offenders can also turn to an array of seemingly everyday items – including pens, watches and shoes – equipped with spycams. The footage is not limited to public toilets, and the epidemic includes revenge porn, sometimes filmed without the women’s consent.

Record numbers of women have held a monthly protest on the streets of Seoul calling for the government to do more, with last month’s demonstration drawing 70,000 protesters, according to the organisers.

At present, the Seoul government checks each toilet about once a month, and employs only 50 inspectors to monitor more than 20,000 public bathrooms, according to news agency Yonhap. The new plan will call for the 8,000 city workers who maintain and clean the bathrooms to conduct daily checks.

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Government inspectors have failed to find any cameras in the past two years. But experts and activists have criticised sweeps of public bathrooms, saying they were little more than a show and most cameras were installed in homes and offices. They have also chided the government for failing to adequately punish perpetrators who share secretly filmed footage.

There have also been charges of sexism in the justice system, with two recent high-profiles cases targeting female perpetrators. A South Korean court sentenced a woman to a year in jail last month for sharing a nude photo of a male colleague, while most men who share photos or videos are typically only fined. The vast majority of perpetrators, over 90 per cent, are men, according to government data.