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Sexual harassment and assault

South Korean women’s anger about spycam porn ‘has reached its limit’, say protesters

‘Courage to be uncomfortable’ was the slogan of the anti-hidden camera movement during its fifth protest on Seoul’s streets

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 06 October, 2018, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 October, 2018, 6:30pm

While Typhoon Kong-rey hit parts of South Korea on Saturday, a different storm has been brewing in the nation’s capital for months. The air was heavy and humid in Seoul’s Hyehwa district after a morning of strong rain, but thousands of female protesters were undeterred as they joined the city’s fifth anti-hidden camera protest.

Wearing bright red hoodies or T-shirts and many hiding their faces under scarlet cardboard visors, medical masks, sunglasses and bandanas, the crowds of mostly young women chanted slogans and held signs saying “courage to be uncomfortable” and “uncomfortable courage changes the world”.

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They sat in neat rows as their voices sounded out in a collective outcry against the epidemic of hidden camera sex crimes in the country. The organisers’ optimistically estimated about 60,000 women were at the event, while the police said they didn’t bother counting.

Over the past year, “molka” – or hidden cameras – have become a major issue in South Korea. From upskirt photos on the subway to images taken from inside public toilets, hidden camera sex crimes are the cause of much anger and concern among South Korean women, compounded by the rising problem of revenge pornography on the highly-connected nation’s massive online community.

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“Women should live as human beings in a society where there is no gender-based inequality,” the protest organisers told South China Morning Post before the event. “Our voices will continue to cry out until gender inequality is eliminated in all areas of society.”

The slogan “courage to be uncomfortable” is based on the notion of starting conversations and speaking out about “uncomfortable” topics such as sexism, discrimination and sexual violence against women.

Near the protest, a male passer-by said the event did indeed make him feel uncomfortable.

“I respect this protest because it’s an issue I can’t experience as a man. But they’re making the atmosphere so uncomfortable by saying ‘men are wrong, women are right’. Honestly, I can’t pay too much attention, I just think these women are hardworking in their cause.”

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During the event, organisers said they received several threats from people against their cause. According to attendees, a male detractor was arrested after shooting at the protest organisers with an air gun.

Anti-molka protesters say men get away with committing hidden camera crimes, while women are left to pay for them. According to the protest organisers, 98 per cent of hidden camera offenders are let off or receive a light punishment such as a fine or warning.

“Korean women have to check for hidden cameras in public places, Korean women have to search their own names on porn sites to see if someone has uploaded their videos or photos,” they said.

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“Society makes us blame ourselves for ‘not being careful’ and ‘not saying no’. Women have to endure a second round of abuse of social judgment, after they become victims of these crimes.”

This week, South Korean K-pop star Goo Hara made headlines as the latest prominent figure to be embroiled in a revenge porn scandal. Goo claims an ex-boyfriend blackmailed her by threatening to release a sex video of them, according to local reports.

Under pressure from the protests and a petition with more than 200,000 signatures, South Korean police formed a special investigation team to deal with the issue, the organiser said.

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“They caught 1,012 people for running revenge porn sites, online sharing platforms, hidden camera shooters, and the like, but they only arrested 6.2 per cent [of those involved] for their crimes … Our anger about the discrimination of women, hidden cameras and misogyny has reached its limit,” said the organisers. “And it brings women out to march on the streets.”

Additional reporting by Chaihyun Lee