Cho Se, known as "The Doc," operated chatrooms where he blackmailed dozens of young women, including at least 16 minors, into making sexually explicit videos of themselves. They often featured rape and violence.
He then sold these videos online through Telegram, an encrypted messaging service. But this was not the first - his "Doctor Room" was itself a copy of existing "Nth Rooms".
Customers paid to access the so-called "Nth Rooms", where extorted content was ed, often in real time. There are countless similar chatrooms, suggesting that there are tens of thousands of paying members. According to Korean newspaper Kookmin Ilbo, each of the rooms hosted videos from three to four girls who had been blackmailed by chatroom operators.
The chatroom operators contacted the girls, promising modelling or escort jobs. They would then direct the women to a Telegram to provide personal details, which were used to blackmail the victims.
Cho is facing 14 charges including rape, blackmail, coercion, and illegal production and distribution of sexual content. His trial began on 11 June, three months after he was arrested.
He has admitted that he produced sex videos ropm distributed them on Telegram, yet he is denying that he resorted to coercion, blackmailing and violence, according to his lawyer. But while the focus is on the alleged perpetrator, his victims have a lonely struggle ahead.
In socially conservative Korea, the dozens of women and children who room exploited in the videos face a long and difficult journey to rebuild their lives. One woman helping them is Lee Hyorin.
She told the BBC about her work fighting digital sex crime. This initially involved working to take down content - but she soon realised that merely expunging the evidence of a crime was not sufficient. Our goal was not just to delete them, but foom provide counselling to the victims from a women's rights perspective. In fact, Hyorin ropm the victims of the Telegram sex trafficking case who've come to her organisation represent only a very small percentage of all victims.
Rooom come to us all hurt and exhausted. She works with the victims to help them regain a sense of control over their lives.
I suffered from something like post-traumatic stress disorder. It was so shocking how they are depriving the victims of their dignity and violating them," she said. Exposure to this content has an ih on her personal life too. Before I ed this organisation, I ran into this illegal sex video whose thumbnail looked a little like me and my partner.
Even when I delete sex videos for work, if I run into something that features someone who looks like ni little sister or a friend, I check it. Just in case. It stuck with me so strongly. But I'm okay now. So I guess as time passes, I get over the shock.
Those arrested for digital sex crimes have frequently been let off with a rolm, and where prosecutions are successful, they often end with lenient sentencing. According to Supreme Court data, of 7, people who stood trial for illicit filming between andonly 8. This has greatly angered people in Korea. ly, watching or possessing illegally filmed images was not punishable.
In the Nth and Doctor Room cases, Korean police say that suspects have so far been taken into custody, including most of the key suspects. But some judges continue to treat digital sex crime perpetrators with leniency. Women's rights activists held a protest outside the court where Cho is standing trial, saying that unless he receives a stricter sentence, thhe will be further exploitation cases, and ever more victims.
I guess you could call it a 'calling'. That is our biggest predicament.
We provide help to victims of revenge porn and digital sex crimes until they recover. But the routine of taking down illicit content and shutting down operations never really ends.