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Thousands Of Women In South Korea Held A Historic March Against Being Filmed By Spy Cams

A record number of people participated in "Women March for Justice" in Seoul.

Posted on June 11, 2018, at 9:17 a.m. ET

On Saturday, an estimated 22,000 people gathered for the biggest women's rally in South Korean history. The march in Hyehwa, Seoul, was held to raise awareness of the country's ongoing problem of spy cam surveillance and apparent sexism in prosecutions.

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The march received a huge response on Twitter, despite it coinciding with the meeting of President Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, which also sparked protests in South Korea's capital.

People holding signs with memorable slogans such as "my life is not your porn" flooded the area. They chanted, and some women even shaved their heads in protest.

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"WHY ARE YOU THE VICTIM, AND ME YOUR JERK MATERIAL?" #혜화시위 Up to 30,000 women (12,000 according to police) are currently in #Hyehwa saying enough's enough regarding Korea's #spycam epidemic https://t.co/dz9bDtUJCv

Spy cams, cameras used to film explicit images of women known as "molka," have been a problem in South Korea for years.

A blog from 2015 details an incident in which footage from a camera placed in a women's shower room at a water park was released online.

Perpetrators usually either record footage secretly on their phones or on cameras installed in bathrooms, changing rooms, or other private spaces. Preinstalled cameras are usually made to blend in with surroundings. Footage from these cameras is usually uploaded to the internet and shared on social media and porn sites. Women have now begun covering their faces when using these spaces for fear of being identified when footage is uploaded online. Pornography is illegal in South Korea, but it hasn't prevented spy cam footage being distributed across Korean and international sites.

According to the Korean National Police Agency, in 2014, there was an average of 18 cases of molka reported to police each day. It is believed the real number of victims is probably much higher. According to the same agency, in 2016, 98% of offenders were male.

Despite the prevalence of the illegal images and videos, Korean police have been criticized by women and activists for failing to effectively prosecute perpetrators.

Experts in Korean online sex offenses blame vague laws and government failures for the distrust from victims. Perpetrators are often not charged under pornography laws, as the law requires the content to show body parts that "induce sexual desire or humiliation." This wording allows many to avoid being charged as sex offenders. Also, police only ask those behind the cameras to submit devices voluntarily. Other devices aren't checked for copies of footage, allowing for footage or photos to potentially be uploaded multiple times. Light punishments — most offenders only pay fines of a few thousand dollars — and the perceived sexist nature of police officers have also been said to contribute to the issue. This, combined with the difficulty in identifying victims as many videos don't show their faces, means many women don't even report being molka victims to police.
Courage to be Uncomfortable

Experts in Korean online sex offenses blame vague laws and government failures for the distrust from victims. Perpetrators are often not charged under pornography laws, as the law requires the content to show body parts that "induce sexual desire or humiliation." This wording allows many to avoid being charged as sex offenders. Also, police only ask those behind the cameras to submit devices voluntarily.

Other devices aren't checked for copies of footage, allowing for footage or photos to potentially be uploaded multiple times.

Light punishments — most offenders only pay fines of a few thousand dollars — and the perceived sexist nature of police officers have also been said to contribute to the issue. This, combined with the difficulty in identifying victims as many videos don't show their faces, means many women don't even report being molka victims to police.

This anger peaked in May when a woman was arrested for secretly photographing a nude male model during a drawing class at Hongik University. The woman was arrested less than a day later after the crime was reported.

The police's quick reaction, the woman's arrest, and the removal of her camera angered women who said the same thorough treatment was not given in cases where the victim was a woman.

The organizers behind this weekend's huge march, an anonymous collective known as Courage to Be Uncomfortable, said via a statement to the press that the treatment of the Hongik University victim exposed issues faced by women victims of molka.

"How the public reacts to female and male victims is widely different. While a crime against a male victim receives critical attention, a female victim’s video is regarded as another porn," they wrote in a statement. According to the group, while words related to the Hongik University video appeared at the top of public search engines, words related to a similar video but of women students appeared at the top of porn site searches.

Following a gathering in May attended by 12,000 people, and a petition signed by over 200,000, word began to spread across social media of another march scheduled for June 9. Images promoting the event encouraged women to wear red, to symbolize their anger.

Courage to be Uncomfortable

The protest gained support from international groups too.

New Shrews blog post. Please share this widely. Protest on June 9, 2018 in Seoul, Korea. Korean Women are Making Historic Changes. Help Us Spread Our Voice. We are reaching out from The Courage to be Uncomfortable: Women March for Justice protest. https://t.co/sTfBz5LtKq https://t.co/6dOzvYUcep

Yet despite the huge turnout at the protest, and international attention, most participants covered their faces, or asked for them to be obscured from photos, in fear they'd be identified online and shamed.

The women chanted, "Those men who film molka (spycam)! Those who upload it! Those who watch it! All should be arrested & face stern punishment! Molka (hidden in) cigarette packets! Molka in water bottles! Molka in car keys! Molka in eye glasses! Restrict molka sales! #혜화시위 https://t.co/iFYihVJe6R

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