By: Jinyi Hu (Correspondent)
In the midst of a global pandemic, a series of horrifying sex crimes labeled as the “Nth room” case shakes the foundations of sex-crime accountability in South Korea.
In late March, the police arrested 24-year-old Cho Joobin, commonly known by his online alias “Baksa” or “Doctor,” for blackmailing at least 74 women (16 of them underage) into sending him sexual and often violent videos which he circulated in chat rooms on a messaging app called Telegram. He is accused of distributing sexually explicit content to at least 260,000 users, according to Quartz.
CNN reports that users of the Nth chat rooms allegedly paid as much as $1,200 to upgrade to premium rooms, where they would be able to access more explicit content. Many of the Nth room users covered their tracks using Telegram’s encrypted messaging and cryptocurrency.
According to two reporters of Kookmin Ilbo, a South Korean daily newspaper, who both infiltrated the chat rooms, much of the footage involves minors committing sexual acts as requested by the users in the chat room. In one photo the reporters came across, the victims were ordered to carve the words “Baksa” and “slave” onto their bodies.
“I’ve had bipolar disorder and depression since then, and it felt like I couldn’t leave the house for a while because I felt like I would be stalked. When I go outside, I don’t want anyone to notice who I am, so I am all covered up, even in the summer,” said one victim in an interview on CBS radio show Kim Hyun Jung‘s News Show. The victim was a middle schooler when she was blackmailed by Cho Joobin. She revealed that she had been coerced into sharing at least forty explicit videos of herself and expressed doubt on the reported number of underage victims affected by the case.
“I personally think there are more minors involved than adults,” she said.
Quartz further reports that many of the victims are runaway teenagers who were in desperate need of income. Chat room operators took advantage of the victims’ financial instability by offering them easy ways to make money with the intent of obtaining their personal information. Once the operators gathered enough private info, victims were threatened into acting out and filming sexual acts.
After 2.3 million people signed a petition to reveal the identity of “Doctor,” Cho Joobin’s name and face were released to the public.
Cho, who had volunteered at an orphanage in Incheon as a college student because he “wanted to help others,” is suspected of having been concurrently exploiting women and distributing explicit videos on Telegram.
“I was so angry that he would pretend to be a good person but in reality he would be revealing pornos of minors and threatening them, and ruining a person’s life like that,” added the victim in her interview.
“I apologise to those who were hurt by me,” said Cho when he was led out of the police station on March 25th. “Thank you for ending the life of a demon that I couldn’t stop.”
As of now, the investigations for the Nth room case are still ongoing, as many other chat room operators, including one named “GodGod,” have still not been identified.