Some 12,000 women gathered in Seoul on Saturday to protest against the “discriminatory treatment” of cases involving male and female victims of digital and online sexual violence, including spy-cam pornography. The event was the biggest women’s rights rally in Korea’s recent history.
Dressed in red to “express their rage,” the protesters chanted, “Women, not just men, are also citizens (of the Republic of Korea)” near Hyehwa Station.
The event was organized in response to a recent incident that critics have characterized as emblematic of authorities’ responses to sexual violence, which allegedly vary depending on the gender of victims or perpetrators.
In a recent case that stirred controversy, a female model was taken into custody after secretly taking a photo of her colleague while he was posing nude for university students, and then distributing it on a “radical feminist” website without his consent.
Some 12,000 women gathered in Seoul to protest against the “discriminatory treatment” of cases involving male and female victims of digital and online sexual violence on Saturday, May 19. (Yonhap)
The authorities’ prompt response to the case -- the suspect was arrested 12 days after the photograph was leaked, and the website, Womad, was soon thereafter investigated by police -- triggered a hail of criticism.
Protesters on Saturday said that while online sexual violence against women has been rampant in the country, the authorities have been indifferent and even negligent toward female victims.
According to 2016 data from the Korean National Police Agency, some 5,184 sexual harassment cases including those that involved spy-cam footage -- illegally uploaded video footage created using hidden cameras in public spaces such as public toilets -- were reported that year. More than 80 percent of the victims were women.
Furthermore, more than 7,300 requests were made to remove revenge porn that was uploaded by victims’ ex-romantic partners.
The protesters on Saturday stressed that while it took the Korean government 10 years to shut down SoraNet, a popular adult file-sharing site where users -- mostly male -- shared revenge and spy-cam porn, it only took 12 days for police to start an investigation of Womad, a radical feminist site where the male model’s nude photo was illegally leaked by one of its users.
On Wednesday, Gender Equality Minister Chung Hyun-back said at a gathering with reporters that she plans to speak with the heads of the police soon. “I will let them know why women have been feeling about the spy-cam pornography issue the way they have been.”
During Saturday’s rally, some male passersby tried to take pictures of protesters. In response, the participants shouted at the men, screaming, “Stop filming us, stop filming us!”
“I hope the police come up with a comprehensive plan,” said a female professional in Seoul in her 30s. “I think the protesters have a legitimate point, and there should be a stronger measure to deal with cyber sexual crimes against women. If justice can be served to a male victim so promptly, I don’t know why the same hasn’t been happening to so many female victims.”
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org