South Korea toughens law to tackle internet sex crimes

The South Korean Ministry of Gender and Family Equality announced Thursday, September 23, a series of measures to fight Internet sex crimes. “We will do more to eradicate digital sex crimes against children and adolescents and protect the victims”, said Minister Chung Young-ai during the presentation of the new legislative arsenal.

The reform of the law on the protection of children and young people against sexual offenses will in particular make it possible to penalize “online grooming” on minors, an offense of psychological manipulation via the Internet. Until then, this English-speaking term, referring to the fact that an adult befriends a minor on the Internet, gains their trust and then manipulates them to obtain photos or videos of a sexual nature, was not punished by the South Korean legislation, for lack of legal basis to initiate legal proceedings.

From now on, the culprits will face a maximum sentence of three years in prison and 30 million won (21,800 euros). In France, there is a crime corresponding to“Online grooming”, incitement to bribery of a minor. This provision is also recent: French law has been reformed following the awareness of incest. Before 2021, incitement to bribery of a minor was punished only if the child was under 15 years of age.

Undercover investigations

As of Friday, South Korean police can conduct undercover investigations into digital sex crimes cases. According to the Korean National Police Agency, 40 investigators from across the country have been trained since June to use these new investigative techniques.

The reform will also make it possible to initiate criminal proceedings against any person of full age who sends online messages likely to “Arouse sexual desire, shame or hatred” in minors.

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South Korea decided to beef up its response to underage sex crimes via the Internet following one of the biggest sex scandals in its history, occurred in April 2020. South Korean justice then dismantled a vast network of sexual exploitation called “Nth Room” (Room N). This network was selling sex videos extorted under threat through the encrypted Telegram application. Users could access eight chat rooms, numbered 1 to N, with increasingly extreme and degrading content, for a fee of between 250,000 to 1.5 million won (187 to 1,125 euros). The majority of the victims were minors at the time of the events, and in a situation of financial vulnerability. These young girls have been manipulated by men offering them easy money or odd modeling jobs, then trapped thanks to well-orchestrated blackmail.

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