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The Peninsula

South Korea’s Approach to Borderless Crimes

Published July 24, 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

  • On June 6, a South Korean court denied a U.S. request for the extradition of Son Jong-woo, 24, who ran one of the world’s largest child porn sites. Son already served his 18-month sentence issued by a local court.
  • Son was first arrested in March 2018 after a U.S. Justice Department investigation tracked bitcoin transactions back to him.
  • In response to public outcry over the court decision, National Assembly Delegate Song Young-gil introduced a bill to the legislature that would revise the extradition law to allow appeals of court rulings on extraditions.

Implications: Despite the increasingly borderless nature of crimes perpetrated online, South Korea is struggling to approach this challenge with an international outlook. The courts argued that keeping Son in South Korea would help local authorities find domestic consumers of child pornography, demonstrating the priority placed on prosecuting South Korean offenders. This is despite the U.S. Justice Department’s finding that users of the site come from countries including the United States, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

Context: The decision comes just a few months after South Korea was rocked by the massive Nth Room online sex trafficking scandal, which also led to harsh criticism of the sentencing of sex offenders. In April, the National Assembly made viewing illegally filmed sexual content punishable by up to three years in prison. Previously, this had not been a crime. Users of Son Jong-woo’s now-defunct site who were convicted in the United States received sentences of five to fifteen years in prison.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of James Constant and Sonia Kim.

Image from Markus Spiske’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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