Image: Getty

A report from the BCC reveals a disturbing trend in South Korea: men using hidden cameras to film women in bathrooms and changing rooms, and then sharing the footage widely online and over chat rooms without their consent.

In Seoul, many women say they check for hidden cameras before using public restrooms. But the evidence goes beyond anecdotal—the BCC reports that 6,465 cases of “spy cameras” were reported last year and 5,437 of those accused were taken into custody, but just 119 were indicted for their crimes.

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Internationally, digital sex crimes are continuing to challenge the current legal landscape where there continues to be minimal protection for victims—but it is harder to prevent the distribution of pornography shot with hidden spy cameras in one of the most cyber-connected countries in the world. As the BCC reports, almost 90 percent of adults in South Korea have a smartphone and more than 93 percent have internet access.

And yet the dynamics between perpetrator and victim will be familiar to anyone who pays attention to the news: The victims of these hidden cameras set-ups often know the person behind it, and often times the videos are shared as revenge porn, on popular pornography sites like Soranet.

There are activists fighting this issue, but curbing the spread of these videos is an elusive goal given the very nature of the internet, where anyone can share anything pretty much at any time. “It is possible to bring down these videos but it is a real problem because it emerges again and again,” says Park Soo-yeon, the head of Digital Sex Crimes Out. And this quote from a South Korean official, whom the BCC joined on a sweep of public restrooms, underscores the savviness and tech agility of those perpetuating these sex crimes. 

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“I’m learning how difficult it is to catch these criminals,” inspector Park Gwang-Mi said. “The men install the camera and take it down within 15 minutes.”