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The Peninsula

South Korea’s Soft Power Brings International Attention to Domestic Issues

Published June 20, 2022

Trigger Warning: This article discusses sexual violence against women and children

South Korean shows and movies have achieved worldwide popularity, particularly with blockbuster successes on Netflix. With “Squid Game” being Netflix’s most popular series to date, the company plans to release an additional 25 South Korean shows in 2022. These successes and the spotlight on Korean-made content have also provided activists in Korea with an avenue to highlight domestic social concerns to an international audience.

On May 18, Netflix released the documentary “Cyber Hell: Exposing an Internet Horror,” covering the infamous ‘Nth Room’ case. This was the revelation in 2019 that two men had used Telegram chatrooms to deceive women, many of them underage, into sending explicit photos. The victims’ photos were then sold to over 60,000 people, many of whom paid in cryptocurrency to avoid drawing attention to these criminal activities. The prosecution of this case elevated conversations around digital sex crimes in South Korea.

When it debuted, “Cyber Hell” was among the top 10 most-watched Netflix content in nine countries and ranked 18th globally. As Korean domestic activists are struggling to advocate for policies to combat sex crimes and gender-based violence, the success of “Cyber Hell” created an opening for them to have a conversation with a broader international audience. This then creates opportunities to form coalitions and partnerships that might lead to more tangible changes as governments around the world are actively discussing common digital rules and other policies to ensure a more safe online space.

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.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of  Jae Chang, Kaitlyn King, Yu Na Choi, and Mai Anna Pressley. Picture from the flickr account of  Jernej Furman

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