25 Mar 2020
Accused in South Korean online sexual blackmail ring identified
In an unusual move, an accused leader of an online sexual blackmail ring was identified by the South Korea Police after millions signed a petition demanding that his identity be made public.
Cho Ju-bin (24) was presented before reporters outside the Seoul Police Station on Wednesday.
Cho allegedly blackmailed girls into sharing sexual videos which were then shared in online pay-to-view chatrooms.
Victims were targeted online; their personal info was extracted
Reportedly, around 74 women—including 16 underage girls—who used social media to trade online sex for money were targeted by the blackmail ring.
They were lured with promising offers of modeling or escort jobs and directed to a Telegram account where their personal details (names, phone numbers, addresses, friend lists, and photos) were extracted.
This extracted information was then used to blackmail them.
Victims blackmailed into sharing degrading, violent sexual videos
The women and girls were then blackmailed into sharing videos of them performing increasingly degrading and even violent sexual acts.
These videos were shared on chatrooms on the encrypted Telegram messaging app.
Access to these chatrooms, called "nth rooms," was granted for a price of $200-$1,200.
Around 10,000 people reportedly used cryptocurrencies to pay for access to these nth rooms.
Police arrested 124 suspects, including 18 chatroom operators
The National Police Agency told reporters that 124 suspects have been arrested. They include 18 chatroom operators, such as Cho, who have been in custody since September.
Cho is accused of abuse, threats, and coercion. He has been found in violation of the child protection act, privacy act, and sexual abuse act.
A user named "GodGod"—who apparently created the first chatroom—remains at large.
5 million signed petition to identify Cho
Cho, who called himself "The Doctor," had remained unidentified as per policy.
However, when a petition to identify him on the presidential website reached a whopping five million signatures, the police made his identity public.
Another petition—signed two million times—calls to identify all chatroom users.
According to a spokesperson, South Korean President Moon Jae-in described the crime as a "cruel act that destroyed lives."
I apologize to those hurt by me: Cho
Addressing reporters outside the Seoul Police Station on Wednesday, Cho said, "I apologize to those who were hurt by me."
He added, "Thank you for ending the life of a demon that I couldn't stop."
Meanwhile, protesters who had gathered outside the station shouted: "Give him the highest penalty!"
They also held placards that read: "From chatroom to prison" and "Punish all users."