As some cases in the #MeToo movement have shown – and President Moon Jae In admitted – hidden cameras and illegal recording is “part of everyday life” in South Korea. But now, protesters are taking strong actions to urge harsher penalties for those caught with molka (hidden camera) footage.
According to police, the number of molka arrests has jumped from 1,110 in 2010 to more than 6,600 in 2014. The real number of instances is believed to be much higher. Out of the 16,201 people arrested between 2012 and 2017, 98% were men, but those investigated are often sent away with a slap on the wrist.
Offenders face a fine of up to KRW10 million (~$9,000 USD) or a maximum prison sentence of up to five years, but with most crimes going unpunished – and men getting away with it more than women – South Koreans are taking action.
Over 400,000 people signed a petition demanding the Blue House force police to investigate allegations properly, prompting president Moon Jae In to call for tougher penalties for perpetrators.
When a female was paraded around in front of the media by police after she was caught secretly filming a nude male model during an art class, 22,000 women took to the streets of Seoul in one of the biggest women’s rights protests in South Korean history.
The female offender was arrested and prosecuted so quickly in comparison to male suspects that an anonymous collective organised a “Right to be Uncomfortable” protest march, accusing police and the law of exercising a double standard when the victims were men. According to female victims, police believe male excuses over their complaints, and the majority face zero consequences or a modest fine and are released to offend again.
“A deep-seated sexism lies behind the incredibly unbalanced numbers between men and women regarding this crime. The problem is aggravated by the uncooperative attitude of the police and the light penalties given out by the courts.” — Protest Organiser
You can buy spycams easily in South Korea; aside from smartphones and miniature spycams, offenders can turn to everyday items like pens, watches and shoes equipped with cameras. Filming locations are not confined to public areas, although public toilets is a popular spot; websites carrying spycam footage show women being filmed without their knowledge having sex, relaxing at home and walking along the street.
Police deny they are not taking women’s complaints seriously and say it’s hard to verify allegations based on footage that often doesn’t show the victim’s face.
The march organizers said more protests are planned to ensure women don’t have to live in constant fear of being recorded.
“They live in constant fear. I often advise them not to take their complaint to court as I know it will not lead to the result they want. I often end up being their counsellor, not their lawyer. It is heartbreaking. There have only been a handful of instances where offenders who uploaded such materials were prosecuted and punished.” — Protest Organiser