A South Korean man accused of coercing dozens of women into performing sex acts in pay-to-view Internet chatrooms as been named and paraded in front of the nation’s media.
Cho Ju-bin, a 24-year-old who worked in an orphanage in Incheon, was arrested earlier this month and was awaiting trial before media coverage of the crimes of which he is accused triggered public outrage.
More than 5 million people have signed a number of petitions on the homepage of Moon Jae-in, the South Korean president, demanding that the authorities withdraw his right to anonymity before the trial. A committee made up of senior judicial officers, a psychologist and a psychiatrist considered the public’s right to know and took the unusual decision to identify Cho on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Cho - who gave himself the name “The Doctor” - was brought out from a police station in central Seoul wearing a medical neck brace and faced the public.
“I apologise to those that I hurt,” Cho said. “Thank you for putting a brake on the life of a devil who could not be stopped”.
He declined to comment when asked whether he admitted the charges.
According to prosecutors, Cho befriended women on Internet chat sites and offered to pay them for nude photos sent through the anonymous “Nth Room” chat room in the Telegram app. An accomplice with access to a government computer network allegedly traced the women and threatened to expose them to friends and family.
Cho then allegedly forced the women to perform obscene acts in one of four chat rooms on the site, with some media reports suggesting that 260,000 users were paying more than £1,000 to access the live feeds.
Media reports have claimed that some of the videos showed groups of men raping a teenage girl in a motel room, while others included images of the word “slave” cut into women’s bodies. One video featured girls “barking like dogs”, according to the Kookmin Ilbo newspaper, while others involved sex acts with insects.
Of the 74 women who are believed to have been subject to abuse, at least 16 were school students.
The National Police Agency has stated that 18 chat room operators have been arrested since September, along with 106 people who paid to access the feeds. Authorities are still trying to locate others, including a user with the name “GodGod” who is believed to have first set up the chat room.
President Moon has promised to ensure that the case is dealt with sternly and to introduce new measures to stamp out digital sex crimes.
The alleged offenders’ actions were “cruel”, he said, and he felt “sympathetic” towards the public anger over the crimes, his office said in a statement.
The Ministry of Justice has attracted criticism for its failure to deal with the growing use of technology to carry out sex crimes, with a ministry official admitting that the case had been “a disaster” and apologising for its “lukewarm response” to digital sexual abuse.