Meet the woman fighting against South Korea’s spy cam epidemic

Following the #meToo movement started in the U.S. South Korean women have also started their own version- to fight the “spy cam epidemic”. Women are told to check thoroughly for cameras when they are alone in public spaces such as public toilets as Korea is in the grip of this “epidemic”. Tiny cameras are placed in areas to discreetly capture women- and sometimes men- undressing in fitting rooms, going to the toilet, or in the gym and then posted online on pornography websites.

The BBC has recently featured Soo-yuen Park as one of their BBC 100 influential women for the year. She has dedicated her life to helping women who have been victims of spy cam porn through establishing the group ‘Digital Sex Crime Out’ in 2015 as part of a campaign to bring down one of the most notorious websites, called Soranet. Soranet was shut down in 2016 but many other websites have popped up in its place. However, at the time, the website had more than a million users and hosted thousands of videos which had been taken and shared without the women’s knowledge.

Some of the women who appeared in the videos took their own lives.

South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world with 93 per cent of the population having internet access. The problem, then, is the rate of videos going up is faster than the rate of videos being taken down. The number of spy cam cases rose from 1354 in 2011 to 5363 in 2017.

In a video, Ms Park told the BBC, “Society has taught that when women are filmed, they should feel ashamed of it. People’s mentality hasn’t advanced at the same pace as technological development.”

As spy cameras are so widespread in the country, many people didn’t see it as an issue, Ms Park explains. But this has meant that women are “scared to use public bathrooms.”

Many South Korean women feel consequences are not enough for these crimes. South Korean Government lawmaker, Choun-Sook Jung, says “South Korean society has been treating violence against women as trivial, private and insignificant.”

Fines can be a maximum of $9000 but in reality, perpetrators are paying much less and only 5 per cent serve jail time. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called for tougher penalties, and on 7 August 2018, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced measures aimed at stamping out cameras in bathrooms, including funding for detection in schools, public toilets, and toilets of private companies, as well as airports and bus and train terminals.

Meanwhile, women-led protests have occurred on the streets of Seoul crying out “my life is not your porn”.

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Ms Park will continue to fight with the victims of this epidemic but says this issue isn’t limited to South Korea, “rather it’s a global issue.”

Hopefully, through these rapidly growing movements, change will occur in a society where women’s voices are only beginning to be heard.