Public anger grows in S. Korea over Telegram underage sexual abuse ring
SEOUL — A petition filed with the presidential office calling for the disclosure of 260,000 users of Telegram chat rooms used to share videos of sexual exploitation of minors has gained over 1 million signatures, according to the presidential website Sunday.
The petition urges authorities to make public the full identities of the clients of sexual content created and distributed by a ring allegedly run by an arrested man surnamed Cho.
“There is no doubt this crime against minors is appalling and repulsive, and should never recur. But this crime will recur in South Korea, if 260,000 customers face no penalties. There is no use in punishing the operators and suppliers only, not that they will be properly punished,” the petition reads.
“Users who were in the Telegram chatroom are all sex offenders. … I must know. Please reveal the full identity of all the users so that if the state will not protect children from child sex offenders we can do so ourselves.”
The petition was filed Friday, the day of Cho’s arrest, and 1.05 million people were in support of it as of Sunday morning.
Cho, a man in his 20s known by his Telegram nickname “Doctor,” was arrested Friday for allegedly victimizing at least 74 people, including 16 minors, police said. He is accused of sexual exploitation and assault on top of sharing content on Telegram since December 2018.
Whether Cho’s identity will be revealed is to be decided in the coming week by a committee of three officials within the police agency and four outside the agency.
According to police, Cho tricked victims into sending him nude photos that included their face, saying it was part of a high-paying part-time job.
Cho then used the nude pictures to blackmail victims, whom he referred to as “slaves,” to obtain videos of a sexual nature, and distributed them across Telegram chat rooms.
Cho is believed to have run three types of paid chat rooms, charging between 200,000 won and 250,000 won ($160-$200) in cryptocurrency for level 1 chatroom, 700,000 won for level 2 and 1.5 million won for level 3.
Police confiscated some 130 million won in cash at Cho’s home and are tracking proceeds of crime.
Thirteen of Cho’s alleged accomplices have been apprehended, of which four have been arrested and referred to the prosecution while nine are under police investigation, according to police.
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