Seoul: After being dubbed the "Second NT Room Case", the dangers of the Internet and the shadowy criminals of the online world are once again making headlines in South Korea.
The scam focuses on a criminal mastermind aka "L" who is hunting down potential partners and consumers of illegal content in order to commit sexual offenses with minors on police camera and to earn money from their distribution and sale. Private messaging app Telegram.
After public outcry over his crimes involving child sex abuse and prostitution, Cho Ju-bin became the first sex offender to reveal his identity when he was caught by police two years ago.
Normally, South Korean police hide the identities and faces of criminals, but about 2.7 million people signed a petition asking for the 24-year-old's face to be seen.
In the original NH Rooms case, more than 60,000 users viewed photos of at least 103 people, including 26 underage girls, who were blackmailed to do so.
Unlike Cho, who was involved in the case but ran a separate chat room called "Box Room" with at least 10,000 users, who was sentenced to a total of 45 years in prison, Moon Heung-wook, producer of NTH . The Rooms chat room, which had about 260,000 users, received a 34-year prison sentence.
Given that the seven victims found so far in Cho's case were even younger than underage girls, the crimes committed by L could be even more heinous. Despite changes in Internet protocols and increased awareness of the need to stop child abuse, L's methods of luring them were even more brutal.
Despite the fact that South Korea has a reputation for being one of the safest places in the world, due to its relatively low crime rate and lack of access to drugs or firearms, it appears that underground online crime networks are thriving. are open to all, regardless of age or location.
Authorities and activists have been made aware of the accessibility of prostitution rings, growing drug networks, gambling websites and many other scams, as well as illegal acts found online.
In its presentation at the Universal Periodic Review of South Korea two months ago, Amnesty International noted that "there has been a significant increase in digital sex crimes as digital technology continues to develop rapidly." “People can spread and buy explicit sexual content and illegally produced videos faster and more easily than ever before
The perpetrator of the present case uses more than 30 temporary chat rooms, unlike Moon or Cho.
While some rooms can only be accessed with a quick Internet search or shared link, others have requirements such as sharing porn or engaging in a certain amount of inappropriate chat.
According to Won Eun-ji, a member of the investigative group "Flame," the chat room run by L had more than 5,000 active users last year. Won Eun-ji discovered the first series of Nth Rooms two years ago while working as a student journalist.
"The perpetrator this time disguised as an activist to contact his victims," she said, "in addition to changing his online ID three to four times a year." The criminal would then steal personal data to use as leverage in blackmail.
According to the so-called Anti-Anth Room law, which took effect in December last year, users who possess, distribute or view sexual material related to minors now face at least one year in prison. , Additionally, the law requires Internet service providers to comply with rules set by the government to help prevent the use of their networks to transport illegal content.
“However, the government failed to establish a long-standing system to respond to emergencies involving digital sexual violence. Additionally, it did not take adequate action to prevent the further online distribution of illegal and non-consensual content. According to a statement from Amnesty International, such as cooperating with foreign platform operators.
The Anti-NH Room law is specific to public online areas. Because of this, the only way to identify illegal content sharing in private chat rooms is through user reports and investigations, something Won did while working as an undercover journalist to trace the original Nth Room crime syndicate.
The editors of media outlet Aluso keep tabs on illegal Telegram chat rooms, while helping victims report crimes to the police.
The company Telegram, which has servers abroad, has so far refused to assist with any criminal investigations in South Korea. Once more, police are requesting their assistance.
Following the Nth Room case two years ago, security and law enforcement have improved, according to Won.
"Education on how to deal with victims who are underage, legal assistance for victims, tougher penalties for child sex abusers, and oversight of internet companies have all been somewhat successful. However, as evidenced by the most recent incident, the victim should be the one actively reporting crimes to the police.
According to reports, a victim went to the police in January, but they didn't look into the allegations because there wasn't any supporting documentation. Police didn't establish a special task force for that L-related case until the end of last month.
Won claims that many of the victims who came forward were teenagers who were initially hesitant to report the crimes to the police out of concern for the reaction of their parents and schools. Parents must accompany minor victims to the authorities, which presents an additional challenge for many.
The scope of digital crime is vast.
Sexually explicit images are not the only thing that constitutes cybercrime.
Ten years ago, it was believed that South Korea was drug-free, with the only people facing charges for possession being gang members or wealthy elites who purchased drugs on the black market.
However, according to recent reports, a large portion of drug users today are in their 20s or younger, with office workers and students increasingly using the substance on a regular basis.
The growth of the chemical industry in China and other nearby Asian nations like Myanmar has enabled the mass production of drugs at lower prices, claims Yonhap News Agency's 2019 report on drugs. The country's growing drug problem is also a result of the expanding online drug market and the rising abuse of prescription medications.
According to one study, 28 out of every 100,000 people use illegal drugs, which is higher than the global average of 20 per 100,000 people in drug-free nations. 60% of drug users under 40 were among the 16,000 drug criminals in the nation last year. Anyone who uses, sells, or imports psychotropic drugs is considered a drug criminal.
Phishing attacks using hidden cameras are also on the rise. Hackers can access contacts and other personal information on a victim's phone by installing malware through chat applications, which can then be used for extortion and blackmail.
The head of the Korea Cyber Security Association, Kim Hyun-geol, claims that only 30% of body camera phishing scams are reported crimes because of their criminal nature. Only 2,330 of the 10,073 cases reported last year resulted in the capture of the offender, a success rate of about 23%.
The National Police Agency has been researching defences, including examining the legality of novel investigative methods like hacking into a suspect's electronic device and securing criminal traces.