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The Peninsula

Public Outcry Not Leading to Changes in the Courts

Published May 21, 2020
Category: South Korea

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • There is growing public demand for tougher punishment for perpetrators of digital sex crimes.
  • K-Pop celebrities who were charged with rape and digital sex crimes received reduced jail sentences.
  • South Korea arrested a man who operated one of the largest child pornography sites on the dark web. Prosecutors are debating whether or not to extradite him to the United States where he would face a longer sentence.

Implications: Despite the public demand for revisions in the legal code that would reflect newly arising challenges in the digital space, South Korean laws have been slow to change. A series of digital sex crime cases prompted the Office of the Police Commissioner-General to create two new bodies that will coordinate enforcement with international partners. In addition, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has publicly discussed the possibility of harsher sentencing. However, the public believes that the courts remain lenient on digital sex crimes, leading to apologies from the Ministry of Justice for its “lukewarm response.” The mismatch between public demand and government action may stem from a broader issue with the courts’ outlook on digital evidence in cases involving cybercrimes.

Context: In October 2019, an investigation by law enforcement bodies from 32 countries, including South Korea and the United States, shut down of one of the world’s largest dark web child pornography marketplaces and arrested 310 site users. This incident revealed the urgency of better policing the digital space. However, the operator of the abovementioned dark web site, a South Korean national, only received a jail sentence of a year and a half. This prompted a debate on whether he should be extradited to the United States to receive a harsher punishment. This also came amid public outcry against other perpetrators of digital sex crimes.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Gordon Henning, Soojin Hwang, Hyungim Jang, and Ingyeong Park.

From user Andrew on Flickr

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