Online sexual abuse, considered an epidemic in South Korea, has left survivors traumatised for life and is adversely affecting all women and girls in the country, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The report, My Life is Not Your Porn: Digital Sex Crimes in South Korea, found that molka, the use of hidden cameras to film or share explicit images of women without their consent, forces victims to contemplate suicide or to consider quitting their jobs or leaving the country.
The report, based on 38 interviews and an online survey involving hundreds of women, also found that sex crime prosecutions involving illegal filming rose 11-fold between 2008 and 2017, according to data from the Korean Institute of Criminology.
The trauma is worsened by encounters with unsympathetic police and courts, the US-based organisation said, and called on the government to introduce harsher penalties and educate men and boys about the dangers of consuming abusive images online.
“Digital sex crimes have become so common, and so feared, in South Korea that they are affecting the quality of life of all women and girls,” Heather Barr, HRW’s interim director of women’ rights, said on Wednesday.
Barr, who authored the report, added: “Women and girls told us they avoided using public toilets and felt anxious about hidden cameras in public and even in their homes. An alarming number of survivors of digital sex crimes said they had considered suicide.
“Officials in the legal justice system – most of whom are men – often seem to simply not understand, or not accept, that these are very serious crimes.”
In 2008, fewer than 4% of prosecutions involved molka, but that had risen to 20% – almost 7,000 cases – by 2017.
“Digital sex crimes are an urgent crisis for South Korean women and girl,” said Lina Yoon, a senior researcher in HRW’s Asia division.
The crime is having a “devastating impact” on women, Yoon added. “Police take the issue lightly because there is no physical contact involved. They don’t realise how terrifying it can be.” The sharing of covert photos and video online means the crime “never ends for the survivors,” she said. “It stays with them throughout their lives.” (Source: The Guardian)